Apple is trying to re-invent itself as the company that protects users’ privacy, however while it is prepared to pick fights with the government at home it is quite prepared to provide user data to the Chinese.
Desperate to keep its second largest market it has censored apps that wouldn’t pass muster with Chinese authorities. It has moved local user data onto servers operated by the state-owned China Telecom and submits to security audits by Chinese authorities.
Of course the Chinese do not allow Apple to have end-to-end encryption and do not accept a refusal to cooperate with their police, particularly in a terrorism case.
But there are signs that Apple might have to roll over even more. Beijing is increasingly tightening the screws on foreign technology outfits. It might be that Apple is worried that if it surrenders to the FBI then China might demand more.
James Lewis, senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said Apple’s moves in the US are part of Apple’s desire to persuade the global market, and particularly China, that the FBI can’t just pop in and ask for data.
The Chinese might also be worried that its users might equally be compromised if US spooks find it too easy to get into an Apple phone.