In a new report, The New York Times reports on their analysis which found that tens of thousands of apps have disappeared from Apple’s App Store in China over the past several years, “more than previously known, including foreign news outlets, gay dating services and encrypted messaging apps.” In Chinese Communist Party-controlled China, Apple has also blocked tools for organizing pro-democracy protests and skirting internet restrictions, as well as apps and information about the Dalai Lama.
On the outskirts of [Guiyang, China] in a poor, mountainous province in southwestern China, men in hard hats recently put the finishing touches on a white building a quarter-mile long with few windows and a tall surrounding wall. There was little sign of its purpose, apart from the flags of Apple and China flying out front, side by side.
Inside, Apple was preparing to store the personal data of its Chinese customers on computer servers run by a state-owned Chinese firm.
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has said the data is safe. But at the data center in Guiyang, which Apple hoped would be completed by next month, and another in the Inner Mongolia region, Apple has largely ceded control to the Chinese government.
Chinese state employees physically manage the computers. Apple abandoned the encryption technology it used elsewhere after China would not allow it. And the digital keys that unlock information on those computers are stored in the data centers they’re meant to secure.
Internal Apple documents reviewed by The New York Times, interviews with 17 current and former Apple employees and four security experts, and new filings made in a court case in the United States last week provide rare insight into the compromises Mr. Cook has made to do business in China. They offer an extensive inside look — many aspects of which have never been reported before — at how Apple has given in to escalating demands from the Chinese authorities.
Two decades ago, as Apple’s operations chief, Mr. Cook spearheaded the company’s entrance into China, a move that helped make Apple the most valuable company in the world and made him the heir apparent to Steve Jobs. Apple now assembles nearly all of its products and earns a fifth of its revenue in the China region. But just as Mr. Cook figured out how to make China work for Apple, China is making Apple work for the Chinese government.
Mr. Cook often talks about Apple’s commitment to civil liberties and privacy. But to stay on the right side of Chinese regulators, his company has put the data of its Chinese customers at risk and has aided government censorship in the Chinese version of its App Store. After Chinese employees complained, it even dropped the “Designed by Apple in California” slogan from the backs of iPhones…
In its data centers, Apple’s compromises have made it nearly impossible for the company to stop the Chinese government from gaining access to the emails, photos, documents, contacts and locations of millions of Chinese residents, according to the security experts and Apple engineers.
MacDailyNews Take: For better and worse, Apple is wedded to China. It will take many years to even begin to extricate itself from this relationship, at least the the point where the company has some meaningful leverage that the CCP understands.
There’s tons more, much of it damning, in the Times full report – recommended – here.
This situation has been building for years and, for the foreseeable future, will continue to get worse for Apple, not better.
There exists a dichotomy that screams hypocrisy that is impossible to overlook:
Apple CEO Tim Cook, winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ 2015 Ripple of Hope Award for “his lifelong commitment to human rights,” who subsequently took a place on the board Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights the following year, and winner of Newseum’s 2017 Free Expression Award in the Free Speech category, no less also aids and abets China’s commitment to violating human rights with serial regularity.
Two phrases immediately spring to mind:
• Do as I say, not as I do.
• Talking the talk, but not walking the walk.
Accepting awards, plaudits, and board positions for “free speech” and “human rights” while banning publications and protest apps are tough actions to reconcile due to their diametrically opposed nature.
For how long can Tim Cook, and by extension, Apple, get away with positioning themselves as the world’s white knight while kowtowing to every whim of the Chinese authoritarian socialist censors?
This is about leadership, or lack thereof.
Obviously, in recent days, this all seems to be coming to a head, but it’s been building for years.
• Apple removes Quartz news app from App Store in China over Hong Kong coverage – October 10, 2019
• Apple kowtows to China by censoring Taiwan flag emoji – October 7, 2019
• Apple Music censors songs in China that reference Tiananmen massacre, democracy – April 9, 2019
• Apple removes VPN apps from China App Store – July 29, 2017
• In bid to improve censorship, China to summon Apple execs to discuss stricter App Store oversight – April 20, 2017
• Apple removes New York Times apps from App Store in China at behest of Chinese government – January 4, 2017
China is critical for Apple in every way from sales to product assembly, so Apple continues to kowtow to China. With Apple’s strong stance – in other places of the world – on users’ rights and privacy, it’s a bad look for the company and a tough tightrope that Tim Cook is trying to walk. — MacDailyNews, July 29, 2017