Apple's iPhone branded a 'national security concern'

Is Apple's iPhone truly a risk to state secrets due to location-tracking technology?

Credit: Apple

Apple's iPhone has been labeled a "national security concern" by Chinese state broadcasters as relations between the country and US over cybersecurity worsen.

The influential state-sponsored China Central Television broadcast declared the iPhone a "national security concern" as part of its national noon broadcast on Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal. CCT criticized the "frequent locations" function present on Apple's iOS 7 operating system, declaring that researchers believe data points recorded by the service could give those with access to this data knowledge of Chinese concerns and even "state secrets."

Found in Settings, the "frequent locations" function is an opt-in feature that allows users to grant their devices permission to record places they often go, in order to provide useful location-based information.

The relationship between China and the US in relation to cybersecurity has never been close, but became far more strained following the leak of confidential documents by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden earlier this year.

Out of all the leaks which showed the widespread surveillance activities of the intelligence agency, the NSA's secret tapping of networks belonging to Chinese telecom and internet giant Huawei were of interest to the country, as were disclosures that suggest the NSA hacked major telcos in China to mine text messages — as well as sustained attacks on Tsinghua University networks.

The broadcast touched upon the Snowden leaks, and according to the WSJ called the US technology firms' databases a "gold mine." In addition, the broadcast quoted Chinese officials who insisted that Apple would need to "take on any legal responsibilities" if data leaks caused by the firm's devices caused harm.

In addition, the recent arrest  of five "military hackers" who allegedly stole US corporate data by US law enforcement is not likely to have improved matters.  Following the arrests , China's defence ministry said:

From 'WikiLeaks' to the 'Snowden' case, US hypocrisy and double standards regarding the issue of cyber security have long been abundantly clear.

Apple is the latest in a string of US companies to be facing backlash over tense relations between China and the United States, following questions raised by Chinese media in June over the security of Microsoft's Windows operating system and an earlier ban of the use of Windows 8 in government computers by the Chinese Central Government Procurement Centre.

See also: Four privacy settings you should enable in iOS 7 immediately