Apple has faced a fair amount of state-sponsored criticism in China, a market where the prevailing powers have a stated goal of promoting more home-grown network and IT solutions. The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple’s iOS 7 poses a threat to national security because of its ‘Frequent Locations’ feature, which identifies and provides users a map of their oft-visited places, for the explicit purpose of improving various device functions.
This location information could be used to potentially sleuth out information about the state of affairs in China, including possibly “state secrets” according to Chinese researchers quoted in the report, which was broadcast on the state-run China Central Television network on Friday. CCTV has previously been critical of Apple, including when it accused the company of discriminatory practices against Chinese customers implied in its warranty policies. The People’s Daily also decried Apple’s customer service practices as “arrogant” last year, and Xinhua cited Apple as a cause behind students running up high-interest debt.
All of these campaign efforts have so far fallen on deaf ears; Apple’s consumer base in China is strong and growing stronger. Nevertheless, Apple CEO Tim Cook has shown himself willing to play ball with the criticism from Chinese media, warranted or not – last year he issued an apology in the form of a letter for the complaints by CCTV about its warranty practices, and promised to amend its policies accordingly.
In most cases, the concerns of the Chinese state-sponsored media appear to be overblown, and not without agenda, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have influence. Cook clearly recognizes that and has acted in the past to make changes accordingly, but we’ll have to see if Apple formulates a response to this fresh criticism as well.