Apple claims to be committed to both “human rights” and privacy. In their “Our Commitment to Human Rights” document, they declare that they “feel a deep sense of responsibility to make technology for people that respects their human rights, empowers them with useful tools and information, and enhances their overall quality of life.”
“We do that with our — setting the industry standard for minimizing personal data collection. We build privacy protections into everything we make — from products like iPhone, to services like Apple Pay, to our comprehensive review process for every app on the App Store,” the document continues. “Hand in hand with the privacy of our users is our commitment to freedom of information and expression. Our products help our customers communicate, learn, express their creativity, and exercise their ingenuity. We believe in the critical importance of an open society in which information flows freely, and we’re convinced the best way we can continue to promote openness is to remain engaged, even where we may disagree with a country’s laws.”
However, according to a bombshell report from The New York Times, Apple’s self-proclaimed quest for privacy doesn’t apply when it comes to users of its products and services in China.
According to the report, Apple plans to store user data at centers in Guiyang, China — and another in the Inner Mongolia region — after largely ceding “control to the Chinese government.” This involves Chinese state management of the computers, the abandonment of encryption technology not permitted by the Chinese regime, and “digital keys that unlock information on those computers” being held in the very “data centers they’re meant to secure.”
“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,” the report said of Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.
The report also details claims by current and former employees of the Silicon Valley giant that Cook “ultimately approved the plans to store customer data on Chinese servers and to aggressively censor apps” on the Apple “App Store.”
“Apple has become a cog in the censorship machine that presents a government-controlled version of the internet,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Asia director for the human rights group, Amnesty International. “If you look at the behavior of the Chinese government, you don’t see any resistance from Apple — no history of standing up for the principles that Apple claims to be so attached to.”
On the subject of “free speech,” Apple reportedly “proactively censors its Chinese App Store, relying on software and employees to flag and block apps that Apple managers worry could run afoul of Chinese officials, according to interviews and court documents.”
Among the tens of thousands of censored apps include “foreign news outlets, gay dating services and encrypted messaging apps,” as well as “tools for organizing pro-democracy protests and skirting internet restrictions, as well as apps about the Dalai Lama.”
“And 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,” the Times added.
Despite the tech giant’s “Commitment to Human Rights,” its financial relationship with China apparently outweighs its “commitment” to the comparatively unimportant notions of “privacy” and “freedom of expression.”
Author : Ian Haworth