China reminds Apple on need to support privacy, security in its products

A Chinese official secures a privacy pledge from Apple's Tim Cook during a company visit, according to Xinhua

Apple can have access to China, as long as it protects users' privacy, a top Chinese official told the company's CEO last week.

The head of the country's Cyberspace Administration, Lu Wei, met with Apple's Tim Cook on Saturday as part of a visit to the company, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency said in a Monday report.

Lu, who's been leading China's efforts to regulate the Internet, told Cook during the visit that China was an open market, but that all tech products must "safeguard the country's national security" and protect users' privacy, according to the report.

In addition, any technology products wanting to enter the market, must first pass a cybersecurity assessment by China, Lu added.

In response, Cook promised that Apple would never divulge customer information to any third-party. Nor would it deliberately create backdoors in its products.

"Cook was grateful in this regard, and said the company was willing to accept the Chinese government's cyber security assessment," the report claimed.

Apple declined to comment on the Xinhua report. But Cook's statements in the report echo previous statements he's made about securing users' privacy, and never allowing access to company servers.

China has been stressing the importance of cybersecurity, following revelations from leaker Edward Snowden that the U.S. had been secretly spying on Chinese companies and hacking into the country's mobile carriers.

In May, China announced it would establish a cybersecurity vetting system meant to weed out IT products that could pose problems. Companies whose products failed the review would be blocked from the market.

China still hasn't released details of how the vetting system will work. But the country's government has been scrutinizing Apple products for security flaws.

Before the iPhone 6 went on sale in the country, a Chinese regulator first demanded that Apple fix suspected problems with Apple's iOS software that could be used to collect user information.

Apple made the changes and also promised to never work with government groups to create backdoors in its software, the Chinese regulator said.

Earlier in the year, China's state-run broadcaster CCTV also blasted Apple over similar concerns relating to an iOS feature that the news group claimed could track a user's location.

Apple rejected the charges, and in September, the company's CEO explained the company's privacy policies in an open letter.

"At Apple, your trust means everything to us," Cook said. "That's why we respect your privacy and protect it with strong encryption, plus strict policies that govern how all data is handled."

Apple is already pulling major revenue from China, which is expected to one day become the company's largest market. In October, Cook told the Chinese press he wanted to build 25 new stores in the Greater China market over the next two years.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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