The Chinese government recently expressed concerns about iOS’ Frequent Locations feature, calling the software a threat to national security. The feature tracks and logs a users’ most frequently visited places; it could be a friend’s house, the movie theater, your home or your job; and iOS will use an amalgamation of GPS, Wi-Fi, and cell tower triangulation to check the coordinates of these frequently visited locations.
So what’s China’s government’s gripe against Apple? Well, China believes that the data that’s logged on iOS devices could be used to leak “state secrets”, and also log information about the nation’s economy. China avers that if this were to happen, that Apple would be held responsible if another country or entity other than the Chinese Government were to get their hands on the data.
How did Apple respond? The Cupertino tech-giant said that Frequent Locations was meant for users who wanted to, at a quick glance, see how long it would take for them to complete their errands or the length of their daily commute. Apple also stated that it was never the company’s intentions, nor current practice, to track the movements of users, nor is a user’s unique data stored or shared with anyone. Apple went on to say that the feature can also be disabled on any iPhone, and that they, as a company, do not store any data that is unique to any user:
“Calculating a phone’s location using just GPS satellite data can take several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using pre-stored WLAN hotspot and cell tower location data in combination with information about which hotspots and cell towers are currently being received by the iPhone. In order to accomplish this goal, Apple maintains a secure crowd-sourced database containing known locations of cell towers and WLAN hotspots that Apple collects from millions of Apple devices. It’s important to point out that during this collection process, an Apple device does not transmit any data that is uniquely associated with the device or the customer.”-Apple
Currently, Apple only holds 6% of the cell phone market share in China, a battle that they’re losing to local manufacturers like Xiaomi. and concerns like this surely won’t help the US-company to grow in the region. This, combined with Apple’s problems last year in following China’s warranty procedures, might make it difficult for Apple to gain a significant footing in the area.
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