Is Apple spying on China or is China protecting hackers?

image credit: Dru Bloomfield

China’s state-owned national television broadcaster said a feature of Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone software that tracks user locations poses a security concern.

The function can collect data and may result in a leak of state secrets, China Central Television reported, citing Ma Ding, head of the online security institute at People’s Public Security University of China. Tiffany Yang, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Apple, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. U.S. representatives also didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Apple, Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. are among U.S. companies criticized by state-run media amid an escalating spat over cyberspying and hacking allegations. The tensions follow indictments by U.S. prosecutors of five Chinese military officers for allegedly hacking into the computers of American companies and last year’s revelations by former security contractor Edward Snowden of a National Security Agency spying program.

Last month, a commentary on the microblog of the People’s Daily newspaper said Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook cooperated in a secret U.S. program to monitor China.

CCTV, the national broadcaster, said a provincial government was told not to buy computers with Microsoft’s Windows 8, and it quoted a professor calling the software a potential threat to China’s information security.

Cupertino, California-based Apple had March quarter sales of $9.3 billion from the greater China area, a region that includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Apple shares were little changed at $95.06 at 9:48 a.m. New York time.

China will “severely” fight against infringements such as fake products and protect foreign and domestic innovations equally, according to a statement posted on the central government’s website, citing comments by Premier Li Keqiang to World Intellectual Property Organization Director General Francis Gurry.

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