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Apple denies threat to national security

2014-07-14 09:07 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

Says no backdoors in its products

Apple on Saturday rebutted an accusation from China Central Television (CCTV) calling its cellphone location service a potential national security threat, adding the company does not and will not track users' locations.

The move came after a Friday TV broadcast in which CCTV stated that the technology giant was invading users' personal privacy, since iPhone's "frequent locations" function can collect data even when the function is turned off.

"Apple does not track users' location - Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so," said the company.

In the statement, Apple claimed that it uses a secure crowd-sourced database containing known locations collected from millions of Apple devices to help its customers to determine their current locations but "does not transmit any data that is uniquely associated with the device or the customer" during the collection process.

According to CCTV, the iPhone's "Frequent Locations" function records all locations users have visited, as well as how long they stayed.

"The Frequent Locations [function] could produce a specific and complete record of the user's behavior. Hence, information related to [China's] economy and politics, especially State secrets, could be deduced [using] this feature," said Ma Ding, a professor at the People's Public Security University of China.

Even if the owner turns off the function, the back end system will still collect data, Ma noted.

CCTV claimed more than 90 percent of iPhone users it interviewed were not aware of this function.

Apple, however, said related information and data on locations "are only stored on a customer's iOS device and "are not backed up on iTunes or iCloud, and are encrypted."

Apple also added that it encrypts the information cache using the user's passcode and that it is protected from access by any app.

The company stressed that "Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services."

"Apple should take proactive action to comply with [China's] upcoming national cyber security standards and provide more evidence supporting its commitment to 'protect privacy' and 'never work with any government agency'," Qin An, a cyber security expert at the China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy, told the Global Times.

Apple's South Korean unit was fined 3 million won ($2,855) in 2011 by the country's communications regulator after the iPhone and iPad maker collected location data from users without proper authorization.

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