updated 09:48 am EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
Claims data could be used to glean state secrets
State-run China Central Television has called iOS 7's Frequent Locations function a "national security concern" in a noon broadcast, according to the Wall Street Journal. The report quoted researchers as saying that people with access to the underlying data could get a glimpse of the broader Chinese situation, or "even state secrets." Electronic security has become a sensitive topic for the Chinese government in the wake of leaks from Edward Snowden, revealing that the NSA is spying on Chinese leaders, and that American businesses have willingly or unwillingly provided the NSA with access to demanded data.
Apple has always insisted that it doesn't provide US government agencies with direct server access, but that might not assuage Chinese concerns, especially as a number of local executives and government officials use iPhones. If the NSA (or CIA) is able to intercept Frequent Locations data, it might in theory be using it to follow the travel habits of prominent people.
CCTV broadcasts are noted to be particularly influential, sometimes forcing companies to change policies or recall products. Last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook made a public apology after CCTV accused his company of discriminating against Chinese shoppers in terms of warranty policies.
The report also quoted officials as saying that China needs stiffer data protection laws, and that Apple would have to "take on any legal responsibilities" for data leaks. Frequent Locations data is intended to offer things like predictive traffic routing by identifying how often a person travels to particular places. Apple states that this information isn't received on its servers without user consent.