The Week (US)
Apple: China ties bind a tech superpower
After a bombshell New York Times report, Republicans are accusing Apple of a “near-total capitulation” to China’s authoritarian regime, said Anna Cooban in BusinessInsider.com. A report in the Times last week found that to comply with China’s increasingly tough regulations, Apple CEO Tim Cook moved customer data to China, granted China unique concessions on its encryption technology, and censored thousands of apps from its App Store after tasking employees with “identifying apps that might offend the Chinese government.” In a letter to Cook, four GOP congressmen demanded that the world’s most valuable business reconsider whether it wants to remain “a pawn in China’s malfeasance.”
Apple “champions privacy protection in its local commercials,” said Frank Chen in the Hong Kong–based Asia Times (China). But its agreeing to let a state-owned enterprise, Guizhou-Cloud, store its Chinese iCloud data raises questions about Beijing’s ability to “surveil Chinese online communications and activities.” Apple’s data nodes in America and Europe are “wholly owned and operated by the company.” But it commissioned GuizhouCloud as a local partner to comply with Chinese laws. It’s an egregious breach of trust, said Alex Shephard in The New Republic, considering “the fulsome effort Apple has undertaken to cast itself as the one tech company among the industry’s titans that nobly holds itself to a higher ethical standard.” We now know that it’s been “happily collaborating with the Chinese government” while raking in billions from Chinese customers.
It would seem like allowing Chinese intelligence physical access “to the hardware in the facility is game over,” said John Gruber in DaringFireball.net. But what is Apple supposed to do? “The argument against continuing business in China is that if the company really believed what it says about privacy, they would refuse to comply with the law and effectively pull out of the market, tens of billions of dollars be damned.” But what about Apple’s customers in China? They may have “less privacy than iCloud users everywhere else in the world,” but it’s possible that “using Apple devices is one the most private things anyone outside government leadership can do in China.”
“Apple is undoubtedly in a sticky situation,” said The Washington Post in an editorial. Still, “there are some red lines of antidemocracy that Apple shouldn’t cross.” China currently provides “cheap, high-quality labor” that forms the supply chain for almost every iPhone, iPad, and Mac computer, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Apple has already begun moving some of its production to Vietnam, and continuing on that path is the only way to “reduce the cost of saying ‘no.’”