China: Apple accused of sending browsing data and IP addresses to Tencent

Author: South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Published on: 15 October 2019

“Apple criticised for sending some browsing data to Chinese social media giant Tencent”, 15 Oct 2019

Apple came under fire… for sending web browsing data, including IP addresses, to China’s Tencent Holdings, the latest criticism of how the company operates in the world’s most populous nation.

For about two years, Apple has been sending data to Tencent as part of an iPhone and iPad security feature that warns users if a website is malicious or unsafe before they load it. The US company checks addresses against an existing list of sites known to be problematic. That list is maintained by Tencent for users in mainland China and by Google for other regions, including in the US.

In newer versions of Apple’s iOS operating systems, the company says this feature “may also log your IP address,” potentially providing Tencent, a Chinese internet conglomerate with government ties, data such as a user’s location. The safe browsing feature with Google was first added to iOS in 2008, but it was expanded to include Tencent with iOS 11 in 2017. Apple updated its description of the feature in more recent versions of iOS…

This isn’t the first time Apple has been criticised for working with a Chinese company to handle local data. In 2018, Apple partnered with Guizhou-Cloud Big Data to store iCloud data locally for users in mainland China…

Apple said in a statement that the feature protects user privacy and safeguards people’s data. The checks occur on the devices, and the actual web addresses are never shared with Tencent and Google, the safe browsing providers. The feature is on by default, but can be switched off, Apple also said. The IP address of a user’s device is shared when a website is found to be suspicious and a warning is sent.

Some users were concerned that data would be sent to Tencent globally because the firm is mentioned even on iPhones outside China. Apple is likely to clarify this in a future version of iOS…

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Related companies: Apple Google (part of Alphabet) Tencent