Apple Gives Chinese Government What It Wants (Again); Pulls Quran App From Chinese App Store

from the consequences-of-heavy-buy-in dept

Apple has generally been pretty good about protecting users from government overreach, its recent voluntary (and misguided) foray into client-side scanning of users’ images notwithstanding. But that seemingly only applies here in the United States, which is going to continue to pose problems for Apple if it chooses to combat local overreach while giving foreign, far more censorial governments greater and greater control.

Like many other tech companies, Apple has no desire to lose access to one of the largest groups of potential customers in the world. Hence its deference to China, which has seen the company do things like pull the New York Times app in China following the government’s obviously bullshit claim that the paper was a purveyor of “fake news.”

Since then, Apple has developed an even closer relationship with the Chinese government, which culminated in the company opening data centers in China to comply with the government’s mandate that all foreign companies store Chinese citizens’ data locally where it’s much easier for the government to demand access.

On a smaller scale, Apple pulled another app — one that encrypted text messages on platforms that don’t provide their own encryption — in response to government demands. Once again, Apple left Chinese citizens at the mercy of their government, apparently in exchange for the privilege of selling them devices that promised them security and privacy while actually offering very little of either.

The latest acquiescence by Apple will help the Chinese government continue its oppression of the country’s Uighur minority — Muslim adherents that have been subjected to religious persecution for years. Whoever the government doesn’t cage, disappear, or genocide into nonexistence will see nothing but the bottom of a jackboot for years to come. Apple is aiding and abetting the jackboot, according to this report by the BBC.

Apple has taken down one of the world’s most popular Quran apps in China, following a request from officials.

Quran Majeed is available across the world on the App Store – and has nearly 150,000 reviews. It is used by millions of Muslims.

The BBC understands that the app was removed for hosting illegal religious texts.

The app is developed by Pakistan Data Management Services, a software company that dates back nearly 50 years. China pretty much owns Pakistan at this point, but this has nothing to do with Pakistan’s purchased allegiance to the Chinese government, and everything to do with punishing religious beliefs (and believers) the Chinese government doesn’t like.

Apple’s compliance cuts off access to nearly 1 million Chinese users of the app, as the BBC reports. This is happening despite the fact the Chinese government pays lip service to a limited form of religious freedom.

The Chinese Communist Party officially recognises Islam as a religion in the country.

And yet, it claims the primary religious text of the faith is “illegal.

Apple is also at least partly owned by China, albeit not in any formal sense. It relies heavily on Chinese manufacturing to produce its devices. This means Apple faces both upline and downline issues if it refuses to comply with the Chinese government’s demands. The company is in a difficult position, what with shareholders in the US (and all over the world) expecting continued growth and profitability. But it’s not as though it’s an impossible situation. Sometimes you have to sacrifice profits for principle.

Apple — with its reliance on Chinese manufacturing — may be in too deep to make a principled stand. China has the upper hand for now. If Apple wants to continue to be seen as a world leader in device security and personal privacy protections, it needs to start figuring out how to end its abusive relationship with the Chinese government.

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Comments on “Apple Gives Chinese Government What It Wants (Again); Pulls Quran App From Chinese App Store”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

While corporations are people when it comes to being able to donate enough money to purchase the officials they need to greenlight all of the things they want, they are not people in having a soul or empathy.

While there are people posting their tutting and fretting from their iThingys, not enough of them seem to care enough to stop buying apple.

Oh child labor is bad… see my new Jordans?
Oh abusing miners in unsafe conditions is bad…This diamond means I really love you.
Oh burning down the rainforest is bad… Pass the beef!!!!!

We demand corporations do better, but just have to have the newest iThingy (if and when we ever get chips from China to make them).

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"…maybe India or some large country with 1000s of factory’s even though it might cost a bit more to do so."

China started their policy of becoming the world’s manufacturing center in the 50’s, culminating in their current role.

That’s a lot of time to play catchup with. Especially so given how western industries have spent so much time pushing manufacturing jobs abroad by now the required skillsets don’t, in practice, exist anymore within the country and no college is teaching those skills any longer.

It’s not that manufacturing in China is "cheap" it’s that as Tim Cook from Apple said it, if they had to even try to build the iPhone within the US every unit would cost over 30k USD for years because you’d have to rebuild that national industry from scratch…

And that’s also why moving the manufacturing to India isn’t an option. They don’t have the skillset either. Or a large pool of tool-and-die engineers with generational experience.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
DeComposer (profile) says:

Apple caves again

More and more, I think Apple’s CSAM scanner was just a stalking horse to let them deploy spy tech at the behest of the demands of any government in the world.

"Could governments force Apple to add non-CSAM images to the hash list?" Apple asks, and then answers, "Apple will refuse any such demands."

Even the Apple-friendly press reports that [Governments planned to misuse CSAM scanning tech even before Apple’s announcement].(

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Apple caves again

Apples CSAM search is possible, because at the low level an operating system has access to everything on a system, and can be extended to search and exfiltrate anything on a system. The only guard against that is having the source code available for anybody to examine, and build a system from. For an operating system vendor to actually implement such software is a complete betrayal any trust that the users of the system have placed in them. The ability of anyone being able to fork an open source project is a reasonable guard against such attacks on the users.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Apple caves again

But… they pinky-promised they super-duper wouldn’t do that! Surely that puts such concerns to rest.

Unfortunately that idea seems to be far too possible, once the door has already been installed it would be all too easy for them to just shrug their shoulders at demands to use it for other things and then blame the government in question for forcing their hands, banking on people not remembering who installed that door in the first place.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Oh NOW doing that's a problem?'

As bad as it is that they’re willing to play along with such oppressive tactics by a dishonest government(‘We believe in religious freedom! So long as you don’t actually practice it.’) it gets worse when you realize that caving to china like this also makes it a lot harder for them to push back when other governments do the same.

‘You were willing to ban apps at government behest before but now that’s a bridge too far?’

‘You were willing to strip encryption at government behest in another country but now that’s simply unacceptable?’

Apple isn’t just throwing their customers in china under the bus they’re throwing themself and customers globally under it as well.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'You did it for them, you either do it for us or we stop asking'

Like they’d have the guts and/or stupidity to be that honest…

No, they’d have to play nice and come up with some excuse and that would leave a huge hole for any politician looking to turn them into a punching bag for spite and/or PR purposes to exploit, to the point that the press releases would practically write themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

You think that's bad....

Anyone followed this one:

Guilty of designing an app that people could use to try to archive content being censored by an internet company. (The kangaroo court did not name this company) Guilty of saying "[eyeball-emoji][car-emoji][dynamite-emoji]", whatever that’s supposed to mean. (The agent had some idea, and that has the force of Divine Edict)

I mean, the chips stop coming from Taiwan next year, they stop coming from Korea’s rebel provinces the year after that, computers become pretty much unusable within a few years … but who is going to miss devices that were used only for fascism and surveillance, and had no other purpose? There are kids alive now who will never be able to convince their grandkids anybody ever flew through the air like a bird.

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