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Apple defends its efforts to protect user data, throws Google under the bus

On Thursday, China Central Television (CCTV) took to the airwaves to decry that Apple’s iOS 7 operating system is a threat to national security interests. In its report, it cited Chinese security experts that deemed that Apple’s Frequent Locations feature could be compromised by malicious parties, and represents a threat to “state secrets.”
 
Like previous assaults from CCTV, Apple was quick to fire back and defends its actions. In a letter presented in both English and in Chinese on Apple’s Chinese-language website, the Cupertino, California-based company stated that it appreciates “CCTV’s effort to help educate customers on a topic we think is very important.”
 
However, before even finishing with the first paragraph of its letter, Apple took a jab at Google’s privacy efforts, stating, “Unlike many companies, our business does not depend on collecting large amounts of personal data about our customers. We are strongly committed to giving our customers clear and transparent notice, choice and control over their information, and we believe our products do this in a simple and elegant way.”
 
Apple went on to detail things “we do and we don’t do” when it comes to user data. Apple made it clear that it doesn’t track the location of its users, and never has. The company maintains that it does use a crowd-sourced database that stores WLAN hotspot and cell tower location information in an effort to make it easier for customers to determine their current location (instead of relying solely on GPS data, which can take much longer to lock on).
 
But Apple is quick to point out that while collecting this information, “any data that is uniquely associated with the device or the customer” is not sent to Apple servers.

 
Location Services must first be enabled by the user, and individual apps can be blocked from using location-based data (Left). Apple provides further control of system-level services that access location data (Right). 

The main thrust of CCTVs criticism of iOS 7 was in Apple’s Frequent Locations feature. However, Apple has a response to this as well, stating that not only is Frequent Location data encrypted, but it is not backed up to your computer via iTunes or iCloud.
 
The company continues:
 
Apple does not have access to Frequent Locations or the location cache on any user’s iPhone at any time. We encrypt the cache by the user’s passcode and it is protected from access by any app. In the interest of even greater transparency for our customers, if a user enters their passcode successfully, they are able to see the data collected on their device. Once the device is locked no one is able to view that information without entering the passcode.
 
Apple also makes it clear that all Location Service features within iOS 7 are “opt-in.” A customer must first enable the service, and Apple provides further granular control over individual apps and Apple system services that access the data with On/Off switches [buried deep] in the setting app.

Source: Apple





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