Apple responds to CCTV charge

Updated: 2014-07-14 09:53

By Eric Jou (

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State broadcaster criticized functions of the Apple iPhone as a possible security risk, but US tech giant says personal data is safe

Apple Inc has responded to allegations by China Central Television (CCTV) about the purported data leakage potential of location-based services found on the iPhone.

The influential state broadcaster in its Friday broadcast had criticized the location-based functions of the Apple iPhone as a breach of privacy, in particular the "frequent locations" function that can track and record the location of the owner movements. A researcher quoted in the report said those with such data could possibly decipher "even state secrets".

In response, Apple wrote on their Chinese homepage Saturday: "We appreciate CCTV's effort to help educate customers on a topic we think is very important. We want to make sure all of our customers in China are clear about what we do and we don't do when it comes to privacy and your personal data."

Apple claims the location-based data saved onto the iPhone is all local and encrypted, meaning the information isn't available to Apple or a third party. The company states there is no backdoor to any of Apple's products or services.

"As we have stated before, Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers," Apple wrote. "And we never will. It's something we feel very strongly about."

Location-based services (LBS) use global positioning satellites, Internet and cellular connections to determine a user's location. After a location has been determined, the data may then be used for maps, directions, or even location based advertising. Similar features can also be found on domestically produced phones running the Android operating system, phones from such companies like Huawei and Lenovo.

IPhone users are given the option to turn on or turn off LBS functions at the initial set-up of the phone. Users who turned the function on can turn it off at any given point.

During the 9 am morning broadcast of CCTV's News on Friday, the State broadcaster criticized the location-based functions of the Apple iPhone, in particular the "frequent locations" function. Over 20 minutes of the broadcast was dedicated to the topic.

In CCTV's report against the American technology giant, they interviewed iPhone users on the street, Apple store employees, and an Internet security expert.

"This is extremely sensitive data," said Ma Ding, director of the Institute for Security of the Internet at the China People's Public Security University. "If the data were accessed, it could reveal an entire country's economic situation and even state secrets."

Ma told CCTV that location data could be used to extrapolate the occupation of the iPhone's user and where they are and what they are doing.

The Frequent Locations Function is found in the current Apple iPhone operating system, iOS 7. The Apple iPhone is incredibly popular in China, with last year's iPhone 5S and 5C selling over 9 million units within the first week.

CCTV's broadcasts have great influence in China. In the past CCTV has singled out companies and products such as Starbucks Coffee and Tencent's WeChat application. CCTV's report against Starbucks backfired, however, with many consumers coming to the defense of the coffee shop juggernaut.

Apple responds to CCTV charge

Apple responds to CCTV charge

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