Apple has, in no uncertain terms, refuted Chinese claims that the location tracking features on board its smartphone should be considered a threat to the country's national security.
This controversy blew up over the weekend, with Chinese TV channel CCTV (an ironic name if ever there was one) warning that location tracking, and specifically the iPhone's "Frequent Locations" function, was a dangerous measure that tapped into sensitive location data and could even compromise "state secrets". Exactly how the latter was the case, the report didn't elaborate on.
This is, of course, part of a wider war of sniping whereby US companies are distrusted in China, particularly after the Snowden revelations (which were mentioned, along with the NSA, in the TV report). It cuts both ways, too – look at the US mistrust of Huawei, for example.
At any rate, ZDNet spotted that Apple has come forward with a statement on its Chinese website which categorically denies these allegations.
The statement read: "We appreciate CCTV's effort to help educate customers on a topic we think is very important. We want to make sure all of our customers in China are clear about what we do and we don't do when it comes to privacy and your personal data."
Apple said that it did not track an individual user's location and has never done so, but as part of location services such as finding the nearest restaurant, it does pre-store certain Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower location data in a "secure crowd-sourced database" to help speed such location-based processes (which would otherwise suffer from a considerable delay).
Apple noted: "It's important to point out that during this collection process, an Apple device does not transmit any data that is uniquely associated with the device or the customer."
The company further noted that it gives customers control over whether location data is used on a device, and it's an opt-in affair not on by default. Apple also made it clear that it doesn't have access to Frequent Locations or the location cache on any given iPhone. You can read the full statement here.
Apple ends it by saying: "As we have stated before, Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will. It's something we feel very strongly about."