Apple shares mobile Safari data with company connected to China's communist regime

Apple shares mobile Safari data with company connected to China's communist regime
Yesterday, we told you that Apple has reportedly warned content creators for its Apple TV+ streaming service not to offend the communist Chinese government. And as we pointed out, Apple's warning came after the company pulled, reinstated, then pulled again a crowdsourced mapping app called HK map Live at the request of the Chinese government. The app, used by protestors in Hong Kong to avoid police and join demonstrations, was becoming a thorn in the side of Chinese authorities.

Apple is being accused of giving in to China's wishes because the country remains the largest smartphone market in the world. Additionally, consumers in China have always been quick to unofficially boycott Apple whenever they felt that the U.S. was unfairly picking on their country. And today's news isn't going to stop these accusations. According to free speech proponents Reclaim the Net, it appears that some IP addresses being visited by mobile Safari users are being turned over to China's Tencent, a company with close ties to the communist Chinese.

UPDATE: Apple denies today's reports and says that it does not share URLs with China's Tencent.

The optics look bad for a company that pays lip service to privacy


Apple traditionally has sent this information to Google Safe Browsing, a service that has a blacklist of URLs that warns users when they are about to visit a "dangerous" website. But if iOS users go to Settings > Safari > About Privacy & Security and read the section titled "Fraudulent Website Warning," it clearly says that "Before visiting a website, Safari may send information calculated from the website address to Google Safe Browsing and Tencent Safe Browsing to check if the website is fraudulent. These safe browsing providers may also log your IP address." Apple has the "Fraudulent Website Warning" toggled on by default and it can be disabled (more ont hat later). However, users then run the risk of visiting fake web sites.


Johns Hopkins University professor Matthew Green published a blog post yesterday in which he notes that while it is unlikely that Tencent Safe Browsing is used in the U.S., "it’s notable that Apple’s warning appears on U.S.-registered iPhones." He also points out that even Google's Safe Browsing is wrought with privacy issues. Since the average person visits multiple websites, a bad actor could put together the clues and "de-anonymize" a user.


Even if Apple limits the use of Tencent's Safe Browsing to users in China, it is potentially turning over information about consumers to a communist regime. Tencent's popular WeChat app is said to feature censorship in real-time. And the company released a mobile game two years ago called "Clap for Xi Jinping: An Awesome Speech." Players get to applaud China's "president for life." Tencent is reportedly developing other games that support the communist party.

There is an old saying that goes, "where there's smoke, there is fire." And while we really don't think that Apple has entered into some sort of secret partnership with the Chinese government, it is clear that the company is looking to protect its market share in China. The optics don't look good for a company that says it values privacy, but whose actions actually say something else.

To opt-out of the Fraudulent Website Warning, go to Settings > Safari > Privacy & Security and tap the toggle switch next to Fraudulent Website Warning. Keep in mind that disabling this feature will prevent you from being warned when you are about to visit a dodgy website.

FEATURED VIDEO

46 Comments

1. afrohoxha

Posts: 264; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

What happens in your iPhone stays on your iPhone....just be sure to enable airplane mode.

3. Subie

Posts: 2415; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

So when there is a positive Apple article all the whiners come out and say phoneArena is taking bribes from Apple... When there is a negative article the other group comes out to say phoneArena is being bribed just to hurt iPhone sales... PhoneArena just can't win with you guys!

16. nikhil23

Posts: 489; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

you can't argue with idiots.

27. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3163; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Subie, you really should know by now that you can't fix stupid. There's no pill or prosthetic for that.

37. Subie

Posts: 2415; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Yup, but I wasn't really expecting to "fix" anything with my comment ;)

46. afrohoxha

Posts: 264; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

Sorry for bothering. Was your reply for apple-rules comment, because it's showing as a reply to my comment and it can't just be a bug ( I don't think anyone would feel ok being shown as labeled an idiot when it was intended for another comment)

4. koioz

Posts: 177; Member since: Nov 29, 2018

Worried for what?

6. maherk

Posts: 6999; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Apple-fulez is back at it again. The dude's attempts to land some credibility when the IPhone 11 was released only lasted few days, before going back to what he does best, blindly defending his masters in Cupertino.

21. darkkjedii

Posts: 31529; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Massive applause.

7. Priyam009

Posts: 63; Member since: Oct 23, 2018

Iphone 11's are possibly the definition of "overrated" but but that 720p display is godly I must say which costs around 600$ not a single innovation because well when they have ish... you don't really need any

14. Alan01

Posts: 638; Member since: Mar 21, 2012

I hate to tell you that Apple itself admits that it shares data with Tencent. Check out the image I just added tot he story. Regards, Alan

15. maherk

Posts: 6999; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Alan, are you sure that those Android OEMs didn't also bribe few Apple employees to say that? /s

22. darkkjedii

Posts: 31529; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Good read Alan. Truth hurts some people.

45. afrohoxha

Posts: 264; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

Alan, why are all these replies related to my comment when we know they were targeted to apple-rules ? Can you explain please because I don't think this is a bug....

5. koioz

Posts: 177; Member since: Nov 29, 2018

For the sake of money. If Apple is really a brand of privacy focused products, they should not sell iphones in China because they already know what China's rule is.

8. VariableCheapskate

Posts: 185; Member since: May 29, 2019

I have a big fat 'L' for those who fall for Apple's face-saving bullshit. Big tech doesn't stay big being honest with where our data goes.

9. mel0524

Posts: 83; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Now we know that apple will vow to China when they say remove or request to do so but when U.S ask to unlock the iPhone 5C, years ago on San Bernardino mass shooting they never budge! Because they know they backed by law here. In China they have no right to say NO.

10. MsPooks

Posts: 207; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

I'm no Apple fan, but...who gives a crap? The Chinese government is what it is, and there are certain rules if you wanna play in their playground. The Chinese people get it; why don't we?

13. maherk

Posts: 6999; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

"The Chinese people get it; why don't we?" The Chinese people are FORCED to live like this, once they dare to criticize their government, they'll vanish in a matter of minutes.

19. Alcyone

Posts: 533; Member since: May 10, 2018

China may not be a poster child for sovereignty. But, they are sovereign like most countries. Guess countries need to bring back imperialism.

20. MsPooks

Posts: 207; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

They allow themselves to be ruled that way. When they've had enough, they'll collectively rise up, fight back, and overthrow their oppressors. It's already happening, but the problem is: MOST Chinese are ok with the status quo. Who is Apple to go in there and start trouble? Their job is to sell gadgets and make me money.

25. maherk

Posts: 6999; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Easier to say that when you're sitting in a different country typing this behind your keyboard. Ask the Syrians and the Egyptians how successful was them protesting and pushing against dictators who doesn't care about human lives, let alone human rights.

29. MsPooks

Posts: 207; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

You keep bringing up examples where the vast majority of people are obviously happy with the status quo. It's not enough to try to start a revolution when 99% of the people are like "Why?" Then you're just a moron; a brave moron, but a moron nonetheless (if your goal is to stay alive). The VERY few people who rise up in every example you've provided probably figured they'd die and become martyrs, possibly sowing the seeds for future rebellion. Yeah, I'm blessed enough to live in a country where brave men already paid the price for my freedom. Ironically, we have a bunch of liberal morons who want to put us citizens in the same position as the Chinese, etc.

31. maherk

Posts: 6999; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

What a clueless naive person you really are. Have you seen the millions of people who stormed the streets in Egypt and Syria? Have you not seen the way Assad bombed his people? More than one million of casualties in Syria, with almost half the population have fled the country, and that's way before ISIS has made their way into there. As for Egypt, they did elect their president after the first revolution has worked, then they went out again to oust their elected president, but the US has a man in mind that they wanted there, he took over the country by killing thousands of civilians who were protesting in the streets, and capturing over THIRTY THOUSAND of them in less than two days, whom vast majority of them are either dead or still locked till this day. Here's an example of what happens when you go out against such regimes. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_2013_Rabaa_massacre And I would love to hear how "liberals" are trying to put citizens in the same position as the Chinese, and not the conservatives who are standing behind a man who have a soft heart for every dictator out there, a man that invites these dictators to interfere in his country, a man who calls himself a king and always "jokes" about wanting to serve more than two terms and how he won't leave the white house.

33. MsPooks

Posts: 207; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

In both cases, apparently there weren't enough people rising up. To answer your question: they probably would have benefited from superior firepower, but they had NONE. Because citizens shouldn't be armed, especially with "assault" weapons, right? The 2nd Amendment wasn't written so we could hunt rabbits with pellet guns, sweetheart. Liberal lunacy. In any case, I'm done getting off topic. The point is: Apple's job is to make money, not take political sides. Don't like that? Get yourself one of those "socially responsible" portfolios while the rest of us take in the Apple earnings.

35. maherk

Posts: 6999; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I'm not an American, and even I know that polls shows that the majority of Americans don't want to give up their right to have guns, and that this majority supports new background check bills. I can see that you're easily brainwashed by the media sources you follow. And maybe you want to educate yourself before arguing next time, since you just admitted that you have zero clue about the revolutions we are talking about. If you think taking down corrupt governments that have zero respect for human rights, then think again.

36. L0n3n1nja

Posts: 1581; Member since: Jul 12, 2016

Do yourself a favor and shut up. You look like a clueless idiot attempting to be smart.

28. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3163; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Sweetie, you've got some serious growing up to do. Entire populations don't "allow themselves to be ruled that way". They either toe the party line or get slaughtered like dissidents did in Pol Pot's Cambodia or Fidel's Cuba. Step out of line in Saudi Arabia and you'll literally lose your head.

30. MsPooks

Posts: 207; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

Entire populations? You seriously think the entire Chinese population has risen up against their government? Drama queen.

32. MsPooks

Posts: 207; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

BTW, you make my argument for me. "Give me liberty, or give me death." "Live free or die." The Chinese say "F*k that. We'd rather live oppressed than die." They've CHOSEN by their inaction.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.