In China, Apple compromises on censorship and surveillance
On Chinese iPhones, Apple bans apps on the Dalai Lama while also hosting apps from the Chinese paramilitary group accused of detaining and abusing Uyghurs, a minority ethnic group in China.
The company has also helped China spread its worldview. Chinese iPhones censor Taiwanese flag emoji and their maps suggest Taiwan is part of China. For a while, just typing the word “Taiwan” could crash an iPhone, according to Patrick Wardle, a former National Security Agency hacker.
Sometimes, Mr. Shoemaker said, he would wake up in the middle of the night with requests from the Chinese government to remove an app. If the app seemed to mention banned topics, it would remove it, but send more complicated cases to senior executives, including Mr. Cue and Mr. Schiller.
Apple resisted a Chinese government order in 2012 to remove the Times’ apps. But five years later, it is finally the case. Mr Cook approved the decision, according to two people familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Apple recently started disclosing how often governments require apps to be removed. In the two years ending June 2020, the most recent data available, Apple said it approved 91% of Chinese government app takedown requests, removing 1,217 apps.
In all other countries combined during that period, Apple approved 40% of requests, removing 253 apps. Apple said most of the apps it removed for the Chinese government were gambling or porn related or worked without a government license, like loan services and live streaming apps.
Still, a Times analysis of Chinese apps data suggests that these disclosures represent a fraction of the apps Apple has blocked in China. Since 2017, around 55,000 active apps have disappeared from Apple’s App Store in China, according to a Times analysis of data compiled by Sensor Tower, an app data company. Most of these applications remained available in other countries.