Apple Confronts the Middle Kingdom: Another Joust between a High Tech Country and a Nation State

March 19, 2021

How did Australia fare in its head-to-head death match with Facebook? Readers of this blog know that I declared Facebook the winner over a mere country. Imagine. A country with kangaroos thinking it could win against the digital social kingdom. I declared Facebook the winner and pegged Australia as the equivalent of a company selling used RVs to residents of Silicon Valley who could not afford an apartment.

Now China finds itself in the midst of Apple peels because Chinese iPhone app developers are following Apple’s privacy guidelines. Imagine. Programmers in China have the daring do to veer outside the boundaries of the orchard owner.

Apple Warns Chinese Apps Not to Dodge Its New Privacy Rules” explains:

But even before introducing the changes, Apple is facing problems in China, where tech companies are testing ways to beat the system and continue tracking users without prompting for their consent. Apple previously said it would reject from its App Store any apps that “are found to disregard the user’s choice”. On Thursday, Apple fired pre-emptive warnings to at least two Chinese apps, telling them to cease and desist after naming a dozen parameters such as “setDeviceName” that could be used “to create a unique identifier for the user’s device”.

The write up explains that Chinese developers are testing technology to put gates in the fence around the Apple app orchard. That’s not what Apple permits. The techniques referenced in the source article smack of breach techniques long in use by specialized software companies. Some of the methods were hinted at in some of the Snowden documents and in the public dump of the Hacking Team’s RCS. Certain government-supported intelware companies employ similar techniques in their solutions as well.

What’s ahead?

  1. Apple declares victory and makes changes as it did for Russia. Business is business, and the ethical issues are really super important unless the economic hit is a consideration
  2. Apple declares that China has ruined the apple orchard, so no more digital delicacies will be exported to the Middle Kingdom
  3. China demonstrates that it can influence behavior by pulling certain supply chain strings, suggesting tariff changes to countries in its orbit, and engaging in face-to-face discussions with Chinese nationals working for the Silicon Valley giant.

Surveillance operates on steroids when app developers have access to the treasure trove of data from users’ actions.

This is another distinctly 21st century issue: A mere country and some of its state backed developers finding that access to the abundance in the Apple orchard hindered.

Stephen E Arnold, March 19, 2021


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