Apple’s iPhone is a ‘national security concern’ for China, as cybersecurity woes worsen

12 July 2014, 4:20 am EDT By Alexandra Burlacu Mobile & Apps

Chinese state broadcasters claim that Apple's iPhone is a "national security concern, as disputes between the U.S. and China concerns heat up over cybersecurity.

Relations between China and the U.S. have been rocky for quite some time over cybersecurity concerns, and things are apparently getting worse. A new broadcast in China has raised some red flags about Apple's iPhone, citing security woes.

More specifically, the China Central Television (CCT) broadcast, which is sponsored by the state, has deemed the iPhone a "national security concern" on Friday, July 11, as part of its national noon broadcast, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

The CCT reportedly criticized the "frequent locations" feature found in Apple's iOS 7, with claims that research has indicated that data points recorded by the iPhone could pose serious concerns.

"In its national noon broadcast, state-run China Central Television criticized the 'frequent locations' function in Apple's iOS mobile operating system, which tracks and records the time and location of the owners movements," reveals the WSJ. "The report quoted researchers who said that those with access to those data points could gain knowledge of the broader situation in China or 'even state secrets.'"

This iOS 7 "frequent locations" function is found in the device's Settings and is an opt-in feature, allowing users to grant permission for their devices to record the places they often visit in order to provide relevant location-based information.

While China and the U.S. have never been quite on the same page in regards to cybersecurity, relations between the two countries significantly worsened after former U.S. NSA contractor Edward Snowden released confidential documents earlier this year.

One of those high-profile leaks revealed the widespread surveillance activities the NSA had engaged in, including the agency's secret tapping into Huawei's networks. Other leaks, meanwhile, indicated that the NSA had hacked major telecoms in China in an effort to mine text messages, and had also engaged in sustained attacks on Tsinghua University networks.

According to the WSJ, the broadcast not only mentioned the Snowden leaks, but also said the databases of tech firms in the U.S. are gold mines. Moreover, the CCT further cited Chinese officials who called on Apple to "take on any legal responsibility" if any data leaks stemming from its devices has negative consequences.

Back in May, the U.S. charged five Chinese military officers with spying, which caused Beijing to bolster its position. Also back in May, the Chinese government procurement center banned the purchase and use of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system on government computers. At the time, this decision was explained as an effort to avoid the issues caused by Windows XP's demise.

For Apple, meanwhile, China is a huge market where its devices are widely popular. Its iPhone, for instance, is very popular among Chinese officials and executives, but this new broadcast may affect how the company is seen in the country.

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