Apple promises Chinese customers iPhone is not a spy tool
Apple has 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, 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 US companies criticised by state-run media amid an escalating spat over cyberspying and hacking allegations.
The tensions follow indictments by US 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 US programme 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. (Bloomberg)