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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on May 21)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:03 May 21, 2021

Trust no one

It is shocking news that Apple has cooperated with the Chinese government to hand over iPhone user information to Chinese authorities to help them spy on their own citizens. Apple claims to stand for strict protection of individuals' privacy — in the United States at least. The company said it took an unavoidable step to abide by local laws in China, a market that accounted for 20 percent of Apple's global sales in the first quarter. But Apple's behavior is a betrayal of the public's trust in its policies and alleged philosophy. The Korean government should reflect on what's happening on the privacy protection front and find ways to manage private information safely.

The New York Times reported that Apple cooperated with China in 2017 by sending iPhone user data to a server owned by China's state-run company shortly after Beijing revised its cybersecurity law to allow any data collected by foreign companies in China to be stored in China. As a result, the Chinese government could access a multitude of names, photos, email addresses, schedules and location information of Apple users, which helped Beijing censor Chinese citizens. In a more shocking development, Apple turned out to have deleted tens of thousands of mobile apps on topics China doesn't like — such as Tiananmen Square, Tibet, independence and democracy protests — from the Chinese version of the App Store. We are dumbfounded at such an about-turn by Apple, which famously did not comply with an FBI request for personal information of an iPhone user during a San Bernadino shooting in 2015 citing its privacy policy.

If Apple gives private information to China, it may not be the only American IT giant to do so. With the pandemic, everyone has to go through body temperature checks and QR code generators. No one knows where their personal information is headed.

Such concerns are grounded. Facial features and voice information collected by cameras in front of buildings were transmitted to the outside. More alarming is that the destination of such data turned out to be IP addresses in China and the United States. We urge our authorities to closely check and make public the results of their investigation as it constitutes a serious infringement on privacy. They must find if such information really leaked to the outside and see if the public and private sectors are accountable.

Leakage of privacy makes everyone a victim. It can deal a critical blow to individuals' business activities. The government must do its best to prevent such leaks of information to ease its citizens' anxiety.
(END)

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