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Business News/ Technology / News/  Apple faces new challenge in China, authorities develop breakthrough method for AirDrop surveillance
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Apple faces new challenge in China, authorities develop breakthrough method for AirDrop surveillance

A Chinese government-backed organization has developed a method to detect individuals using Apple's AirDrop feature, part of efforts to eliminate unwanted content.

For representation purposes only (REUTERS)Premium
For representation purposes only (REUTERS)

A Chinese government-backed organization has reportedly developed a method to detect individuals who send messages using Apple Inc.'s widely used AirDrop feature, according to Beijing authorities. This initiative is part of broader attempts to eliminate unwanted content.

According to a report by Bloomberg, the Beijing institution created a method to bypass the encryption of an iPhone's device log, enabling the identification of phone numbers and email addresses of individuals sharing content through AirDrop, as stated by the city's judicial bureau in an online announcement. The agency reported that law enforcement has identified several suspects using this technique but did not reveal whether any arrests have been made.

“It improves the efficiency and accuracy of case-solving and prevents the spread of inappropriate remarks as well as potential bad influences," said the bureau.

The announcement once again highlighted an iPhone function that activists globally have utilized to disseminate their messages. Requiring only a close-range Bluetooth connection, it was extensively employed by demonstrators to exchange pro-democracy slogans during the Hong Kong protests in 2019, states the report.

Lauded as a "technological breakthrough" in the article, this method could complement efforts aimed at eliminating content that China considers undesirable. Additionally, it introduces further unpredictability to Apple's activities in a nation where the company already faces significant restrictions on content, extending to platforms like Apple TV and Books.

Since 2022, Apple has restricted the AirDrop feature on iPhones in China following its utilization by protesters to share images among device users. The U.S.-based electronics giant is also confronting increasing sales challenges due to a rising number of government-backed entities prohibiting the use of foreign devices in professional settings.

Meanwhile, Apple's iPhone sales in China also dropped by 30% in the first week of 2024, Jefferies analysts said in a note, adding to signs of growing competitive pressures from domestic rivals such as Huawei for the U.S. tech giant.

The decline in Apple's sales was the primary catalyst for an overall double-digit drop in China smartphone shipments for the first week, according to a note the brokerage published on Sunday. Other Android brands and Huawei achieved relatively flat growth year-over-year during this period, the note said.

(With inputs from Bloomberg)

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Published: 10 Jan 2024, 11:13 AM IST
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