The “Frequent Locations” function on Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, is coming under scrutiny in China as a possible threat to national security, the China Central Television reported yesterday.
The feature follows you and records the places you visit most, like home and work, using a variety of tracking technology including GPS. The televised report said that a person or entity with access to this information could come to conclusions about the general state of China and possibly uncover “state secrets,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Since National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden released details on the agency’s methods for spying on other countries, many, including China, have become concerned about what data the iPhone maker shares with the government. In December, German news magazine Der Spiegel revealed an NSA program called “DROPOUTJEEP,” which gives the agency full control of the iPhone and its data.
Shortly after that report, Apple CEO Tim Cook denied that the NSA had a backdoor to the iPhone in an interview with ABC News. He said a gag order on the company prevents him from disclosing the type and quantity of data it shares with the government, but he went on to push for more transparency on this issue.
Then in February a series of flaws were discovered in the newly released iOS7. Among other issues was a vulnerability in the software that allowed hackers to easily record and transmit key strokes (called keylogging) in the background, putting passwords and other user data at risk.
Apple has come under attack already in China for its iPhone warranty policy, which yielded an apology from the company and an amendment to its coverage. The iPhone officially became available in China in January.