Apple as limited the AirDrop wireless file-sharing feature on iPhones in China after the mechanism was used by protesters opposed to Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party by sharing images to other iPhone owners.
AirDrop allows the seamless, discreet exchanges of images, videos, and documents between Apple devices. Apple’s iOS 16.1.1, released Wednesday, automatically imposes a maximum 10-minute timeframe in which users can receive files from non-contacts. Previously, AirDrop didn’t limit the time involved. Users could choose to get files from everyone, no one or just their contacts.
After the 10-minute period expires, the system reverts to the mode where files can only be received from contacts. That means that individuals won’t be able to get an AirDrop transfer from a stranger without actively turning on the feature in the preceding few minutes. It makes it harder for anyone seeking to distribute content and reach people in a discreet manner.
Apple made the change to AirDrop on iPhones sold in China. The shift came after protesters in the country used the service to spread posters opposing Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. The use of AirDrop to sidestep China’s strict online censorship has been well-documented over the past three years and was highlighted again recently.
The Cupertino, California-based tech giant has been criticized in the past for making changes to iPhone features to appease the Chinese government. In one example, the iPhone maker took heat in 2019 for hiding the Taiwanese flag emoji for users in Hong Kong or Macau. It also removed apps for virtual private networks, or VPNs, which are commonly used to circumvent the country’s internet firewall. Many of Apple’s own services are also inaccessible in China — the world’s biggest smartphone market — including Apple TV+, the iTunes Store, paid podcasts, Apple Books and Apple Arcade.
MacDailyNews Take: The tell is that this change starts exclusively in China, to which Apple, even in 2022, remains unfortunately beholden, thanks to “operations genius” Tim Cook.
To hide its latest kowtow to the CCP, Apple should have simply rolled it out worldwide and said it was to stop the unwanted sharing of explicit images in public places, such as airplanes, where AirDrop has notoriously been abused.
Of course, one way around this is to make a quick Shortcut that switches the Setting back to “Everyone for 10 Minutes.”
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