Waarschuwing: Apple spioneert

KIEV, UKRAINE - MAY 16, 2014: Man in the car planning a route using a Google Maps application on Apple iPhone 5S. Google Maps is a most popular web mapping service for mobile provided by Google inc. Foto iStock

Nee, de locatietracker op de iPhone wordt niet gebruikt om Chinese burgers staatsgeheimen te ontfutselen in opdracht van de Amerikaanse overheid. “En de functie kan gewoon worden uitgezet”, schrijft Apple in een persbericht. De aanleiding? Na Google,Facebook en Microsoft wordt ook Apple door de Chinese staatstelevisie beschuldigd van spionage.

Apple assured Chinese customers that location tracking on its iPhone can’t be used to identify activity of individuals, a day after China’s state-owned television broadcaster said the software poses a security risk. The iPhone function can collect data and may result in a leak of state secrets, China Central Television reported on July 11, citing Ma Ding, head of the online security institute at People’s Public Security University of China.

In response, Apple said on its Chinese website that it has never “worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services.” The tracking function is used to speed up applications designed to show iPhone users their own location or assist in driving directions to avoid traffic. It can be turned off, Apple said in its statement. Personal location information is stored only on the phone, protected by a user password, and isn’t available to third parties, the company said.

“We appreciate CCTV’s effort to help educate customers on a topic we think is very important”, the company said in the statement, according to an English translation provided by Apple. “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, Microsoft, Google and Facebook are among U.S. companies criticized by state-run media amid an escalating spat over cyberspying and hacking allegations. The tensions follow indictments by U.S. prosecutors of five Chinese military officers for allegedly hacking into the computers of American companies and last year’s revelations by former security contractor Edward Snowden of a National Security Agency spying program.

Last month, a commentary on the microblog of the People’s Daily newspaper said Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook cooperated in a secret U.S. program to monitor China. CCTV, the national broadcaster, said a provincial government was told not to buy computers with Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system. It quoted a professor calling the software a potential threat to China’s information security.

The report by CCTV on the iPhone came after China told its three state-owned wireless carriers to cut marketing expenses because they overspent on subsidies and advertising for devices such as the Apple handsets, people familiar with the matter said.

China Mobile Communications began selling the iPhone in January after six years of negotiations. Discounts for the Apple device are one reason why subsidies on all phones will rise 29 percent to 34 billion yuan (4.4 billion dollars) this year, Chief Financial Officer Xue Taohai said in March. The company hasn’t received formal notification of the SASAC policy, said Rainie Lei, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for the listed unit, China Mobile.

A reduction of subsidies would make high-end devices like the iPhone or Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy S5 more expensive in the world’s largest smartphone market. The cut would benefit domestic phone makers including Xiaomi, Lenovo Group and Coolpad Group, which offer less costly models.

    • Jeff Green