Apple's Security Compromises in China Outlined in New Report

Apple has been making concessions on privacy and security in order to continue building and selling its devices in China, according to an in-depth report from The New York Times.

China iCloud Feature 2
The focal point of the report is Apple's decision to comply with a 2016 law that requires all personal information and data collected in China to be kept in China, which has led Apple to build a China data center and relocate Chinese customers' iCloud data to China, managed by a Chinese company.

Apple fought against China's efforts to gain more control over customer data, but given China's leverage over Apple, Apple had no choice but to comply. There were initially disagreements over the digital keys that can unlock iCloud encryption. Apple wanted to keep them in the United States, while Chinese officials wanted them in China.

Ultimately, the encryption keys ended up in China, a decision that "surprised" two unnamed Apple executives who worked on the negotiations and who said that the decision could potentially endanger customer data. There is no evidence that the Chinese government has access to the data, but security experts have said that China could demand data or simply take it without asking Apple, especially given compromises in encryption key storage and the fact that a third-party company manages customer data on Apple's behalf.

"The Chinese are serial iPhone breakers," said Ross J. Anderson, a University of Cambridge cybersecurity researcher who reviewed the documents. "I'm convinced that they will have the ability to break into the servers."

In a statement, Apple told The New York Times that it "never compromised" the security of users or user data in China "or anywhere we operate." Apple says that it still controls the keys that protect the data of Chinese customers, and the China data center is using the most advanced encryption technology available, which is more advanced than what Apple uses in other countries.

Apple has also been removing apps from the App Store in China at the request of the Chinese government after China began requiring an official license to release an app. Apple told The New York Times that it has done so to comply with Chinese laws.

"These decisions are not always easy, and we may not agree with the laws that shape them," the company said. "But our priority remains creating the best user experience without violating the rules we are obligated to follow."

The New York Times' report goes into much more detail on the compromises that Apple has made in China, and it is well worth reading in full.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tag: China

Top Rated Comments

icanhazmac Avatar
13 months ago

Apple had no choice but to comply.
There is always a choice, Apple simply chose to comply in order to sell product/services/etc in China. Not passing judgement, just stating facts. Saying "Apple had no choice but to comply" makes them sound like a victim, which they are not, they are a complicit partner.
Score: 88 Votes (Like | Disagree)
xlii Avatar
13 months ago
Apple just can’t bend over far enough to keep China happy.
Score: 50 Votes (Like | Disagree)
contacos Avatar
13 months ago
China is a good example how one nation managed to make everyone their little b … in such a short time. Ignorance is a bliss when you still make a lot of money I guess. It’s quite similar how other countries looked the other way with Nazi Germany and those initial „rumors“ of concentration camps back in the day, because making money was more important (until they tried to start a war on you). There should be a paper on that. Would be quite interesting to know how nazi Germany would have been handled if they had not started a war at everyone and kept to themselves. This is not bashing Apple, just telling about our society as a whole
Score: 44 Votes (Like | Disagree)
zakarhino Avatar
13 months ago
I’ve been referencing this for a while in response to the people that claim Apple fundamentally cares about privacy. They care to the extent that they need to for convincing marketing, that’s it. They will forever put money first over user privacy because that’s what they’re designed to do. If similar laws were passed in the EU or US Apple would comply without second thought (just as they did with the Prism program). There’s a long, long list of things they can do to improve user privacy but they refuse to do them.
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)
laz232 Avatar
13 months ago

There is always a choice, Apple simply chose to comply in order to sell product/services/etc in China. Not passing judgement, just stating facts. Saying "Apple had no choice but to comply" makes them sound like a victim, which they are not, they are a complicit partner.
Come on now, principled Tim Apple had no choice: those overpriced rainbow watchbands that are vital for virtue signalling slactivists don't have the same profit margin if they were made in those terrible racist Western democracies (what's left of them). Gotta appease China /s

(multicultural family with an aunt that came out as gay long before it was fashionable - I despise the cynical commercialisation based on intersectional theory that TC has brought to APPL)
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Deliro Avatar
13 months ago

Apple just can’t bend over far enough to keep China happy.
Neither can entities like the NBA and elected officials of the US (cough).

Since Apple is so about social justice, they showed little compassion or regard for the Hong Kong protests.

I really wonder how Jobs would have handled this. Kinda think the opposite of Cook.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

Tim Cook Beijing Didi Chuxing

China Tells Apple to Remove Ride-Hailing App Didi Chuxing From App Store for Data Violations

Monday July 5, 2021 3:45 am PDT by
Apple has been informed by China's cyberspace regulator that it must remove the Didi Chuxing ride hailing app from the Chinese App Store following concerns about the Uber rival's possible misuse of personal data. Apple CEO Tim Cook with Didi Chuxing president Jean Liu in 2016 The app in question is owned by Didi Global, which Apple has $1 billion invested in. Bloomberg reports that the ban...
s960 2MS Home Office sign 960x640

UK Government Readies Anti-Encryption Publicity Campaign to 'Keep Children Safe' Online

Monday January 17, 2022 4:26 am PST by
The British Government is reportedly preparing a publicity attack on end-to-end encryption in an effort to mobilize public opinion against the technology by framing it as a child safety issue, with its main aim being to derail Facebook's plan to end-to-end encrypt its Messenger platform. According to Rolling Stone, the Home Office has hired the M&C Saatchi advertising agency to plan the...
iPhone 13 Feature Blue

Strong iPhone 13 Demand Sees Taiwan Suppliers Prioritize Apple Over Rivals

Wednesday September 29, 2021 4:21 am PDT by
Strong iPhone 13 demand in Taiwan and China has led Taiwanese component suppliers to prioritize production lines for Apple over rival Samsung and many Chinese mobile vendors, according to a new DigiTimes report. Taiwan-based makers of VCMs (voice coil motors), wire winding and other components of smartphone-use lens modules are giving priority to production for Apple, amid strong pre-sales of...
oppo find x5

Oppo Plans to Challenge Apple Globally, Starting With 'Find X5' Premium Smartphone

Thursday February 24, 2022 4:57 am PST by
After Xiaomi pledged to aggressively challenge Apple earlier this month, Chinese smartphone brand Oppo is also now planning to directly compete with Apple on a global scale with a wave of premium devices, starting with the newly announced Find X5 (via South China Morning Post). Oppo is currently the world's fourth-biggest smartphone vendor, but following its merger with OnePlus, the company...
xiaomi lei jun

Xiaomi Pledges 'War of Life and Death' Against Apple to Become World's Biggest Smartphone Brand

Friday February 11, 2022 4:35 am PST by
Xiaomi intends to step up its challenge to Apple, the company's founder announced this week (via South China Morning Post). Xiaomi founder and chief executive Lei Jun said on Chinese social media platform Weibo that the company will specifically focus on the high-end segment of the global smartphone market in an effort to directly rival Apple, attempting to fill the void left by Huawei....
iOS App Store General Feature JoeBlue

Upcoming EU Sideloading Bill Would 'Cripple the Privacy and Security Protections' iPhone Users Expect, Says Apple

Thursday March 17, 2022 10:38 am PDT by
The European Union is set to introduce new legislation as soon as this month that would significantly affect how the App Store operates in Europe, reports The Wall Street Journal. The Digital Markets Act has been in development for some time and the finalized version that could be completed as soon as this month will allow for sideloading and alternate app store options. Apple will be...
app tracking pop up ios 14

Attempts to Circumvent Apple's App Tracking Transparency Rules in China Reportedly Fail to Gain Traction

Monday July 5, 2021 12:12 am PDT by
Apple's crackdown on Chinese apps that tried to bypass its new privacy rules has successfully thwarted a coordinated effort to create a new way of tracking iPhones for advertising in the country, according to a new report today. Introduced in iOS 14.5, Apple's App Tracking Transparency rules require apps that access an iPhone's ad identifier or IDFA must ask a user's permission before...
wordle

Popular Browser Game 'Wordle' Sold to The New York Times, Will Remain Free 'Initially'

Monday January 31, 2022 2:08 pm PST by
The New York Times today announced that it has purchased popular web-based game "Wordle" for low-seven figures. Created by Josh Wardle, Wordle has gained millions of users over the past several months and has become well-known on the internet thanks to its simple score sharing features and straightforward gameplay. Wardle said in a January interview with TechCrunch that "part of the point"...

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Purple Lineup Feature

Will the iPhone 14 Be a Disappointment?

Saturday May 21, 2022 9:00 am PDT by
With around four months to go before Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 14 lineup, the overwhelming majority of rumors related to the new devices so far have focused on the iPhone 14 Pro, rather than the standard iPhone 14 – leading to questions about how different the iPhone 14 will actually be from its predecessor, the iPhone 13. The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are expected...
iPhone 13 Face ID

'High-End' iPhone 14 Front-Facing Camera to Cost Apple Three Times More

Monday May 23, 2022 7:05 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 will feature a more expensive "high-end" front-facing camera with autofocus, partly made in South Korea for the first time, ET News reports. Apple reportedly ousted a Chinese candidate to choose LG Innotek, a South Korean company, to supply the iPhone 14's front-facing camera alongside Japan's Sharp. The company is said to have originally planned to switch to LG for the iPhone...
iPhone 13 Always On Feature

iPhone 14 Pro Screen Refresh Rate Upgrade Could Allow for Always-On Display

Tuesday May 24, 2022 7:23 am PDT by
Last year's iPhone 13 Pro models were the first of Apple's smartphones to come with 120Hz ProMotion displays, and while the two iPhone 14 Pro models will continue to feature the technology, their screens could well boast expanded refresh rate variability this time round. To bring ProMotion displays to the ‌iPhone 13 Pro models‌, Apple adopted LTPO panel technology with variable refresh...
apple music

Apple Increases Apple Music Subscription Price for Students in Several Countries

Sunday May 22, 2022 1:57 am PDT by
Apple has silently increased the price of its Apple Music subscription for college students in several countries, with the company emailing students informing them their subscription would be slightly increasing in price moving forward. The price change is not widespread and, based on MacRumors' findings, will impact Apple Music student subscribers in but not limited to Australia, the...
EA Apple Maybe Feature

Apple Reportedly Talked With Electronic Arts About Potential Acquisition

Monday May 23, 2022 10:58 am PDT by
Apple is one of several companies that have held talks with Electronic Arts (EA) about a potential purchase, according to a new report from Puck. EA has spoken to several "potential suitors," including Apple, Amazon, and Disney as it looks for a merger arrangement. Apple and the other companies declined to comment, and the status of the talks is not known at this time, but Apple does have an ...
sony headphones 1

Sony's New WH-1000XM5 Headphones vs. Apple's AirPods Max

Friday May 20, 2022 12:18 pm PDT by
Sony this week came out with an updated version of its popular over-ear noise canceling headphones, so we picked up a pair to compare them to the AirPods Max to see which headphones are better and whether it's worth buying the $400 WH-1000XM5 from Sony over Apple's $549 AirPods Max. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. First of all, the AirPods Max win out when it comes ...