Apple has been assisting the Chinese government with the censorship and surveillance of Chinese citizens, repeatedly caving to escalating demands made by state leadership, according to documents reviewed by the New York Times.
The tech giant’s data centre in Guiyang, China, houses users’ information on state-owned servers, the Times reported, adding that Apple allegedly ditches its encryption technology at the request of the Chinese government. Instead, the servers and security tools that are used to protect private data are managed by state employees.
Apple’s submission to the communist Chinese government means that it is impossible for the company to protect authorities from viewing citizens’ private emails, photos, contacts, documents, and locations of its millions of Chinese citizens, security experts and Apple engineers told the news outlet.
Apple CEO Tim Cook previously praised the company’s dedication to privacy and civil liberties, stating that privacy is a “fundamental right.” Nicholas Bequelin, the Asia director of the human rights group Amnesty International, said Apple’s submission to the Chinese government’s demands abandons those commitments.
“Apple has become a cog in the censorship machine that presents a government-controlled version of the internet,” he said. “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.”
The Chinese Communist government has become more forceful when dealing with foreign companies. Since 2017, 55,000 apps have been removed from Apple’s App Store in China, the Times reported, including games, news publications, dating services and messaging platforms.
A spokesman from Apple told the news outlet that the company did “everything it could” to keep users’ private data secure, adding that Apple has “never compromised the security of [their] users or their data in China.”
Last year China threatened to “restrict or investigate” several major U.S. companies, including Apple, in retaliation against the U.S. for blocking shipments of semiconductors to the Chinese company Huawei.