The so-called "ban" on Apple products for Chinese government use isn't about "security" as has been gleefully reported in some outlets, but is in fact a "misunderstanding", a fresh report claims -- though China remains dreadfully suspicious of US technology firms.
Apple bashers bash
The usual suspects came out in force yesterday to misreport claims that the Chinese government had banned use of Apple products due to security concerns. Which is why iPads and MacBooks aren't listed, but security isn't the concern.
The situation apparently reflects nothing more than an administrative problem created when Apple was late delivering documents about energy saving. It had to do so to get its products included on China's approved product list but Apple failed to manage this in time, and that's why its systems aren't listed.
"Fang Honggang, vice president at Detecon International GmbH (China), told Caixin that speculation that national security reasons caused the Chinese government to reject Apple products is unreliable. The Chinese government uses foreign brands, with companies such as Dell still on the list," according to China.org.
It is interesting the Chinese government continues to use Dell machines, given how vulnerable Windows always has been to to malware and other attacks -- Windows 8 is banned from use in Chinese government.
Reporting the Apple product ban, Bloomberg said: “When the government stops the procurement of products, it sends a signal to corporates and semi-government bodies,” quoting an expert who argued that China wants to ensure overseas firms don't have too much influence in the country.
Apple and China have an interesting relationship. Apple manufactures most of its products in the country and also operates retail stores there. China accounted for around 16 percent of Apple's revenue in the last quarter. iPad sales in China jumped 51 percent last quarter while Mac sales climbed 39 percent. China is important.
That's why Apple denied claims from China's state run TV channel last month, which said the Location Tracking features of iOS may be a security problem.This is because of the Location tracking features of the iPhone, in particular its secretive tendency to gather data about your most visited locations.
What your iPhone knows
To take a look at what your iPhone knows about where you've been, launch Settings and navigate to Privacy>Location Services. You must then scroll right to the bottom of the list and tap System Services, one of the only Apple items within iOS that lacks its own menu, so clearly not at all important.
Except it is important.
System Services controls all sorts of information, and if you now tap on Frequent Locations you'll find your iPhone learns the places you frequently visit, apparently to provide "useful location-related information". Look at the History section to see what it knows about your movements, or toggle the feature off to stop it happening.
Apple insists it doesn't use this information and has never allowed and never will allow governments to access information on its servers.
Google and Facebook have been slammed by Chinese media for working with US spying agencies, while both Kaspersky and Symantec were skipped off the latest Chinese government approved equipment list. Windows 8 is now banned from Chinese government PCs.
It may be true that Apple's solutions are not included on the latest list simply because of an administrative error -- but the situation for US tech firms in China has certainly become more difficult as a result of US surveillance activities.
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