China's state-run TV calls the iPhone a national security threat; Apple disagrees

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iOS 7’s Frequent Locations feature will keep track of places you visit frequently and when you visit them, and provide you with useful information based on that data. For example, if your iPhone sees you commuting from your home to your workplace on a daily basis, it might tell you how long today’s commute will take based on traffic conditions, for example.

According to a report from China’s state-run CCTV, however, it may also allow for sensitive information to leak out. The CCTV report, as The Wall Street Journal notes, alleges that the Frequent Locations feature could allow “those with access to that data [to] gain knowledge of China’s economic situation or ‘even state secrets.’”

The Journal doesn’t specify any further details on what sort of secret information could be gleaned from the Frequent Locations feature. That said, CCTV’s report points to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s surveillance programs as a reason to worry about the Frequent Locations feature, the Journal notes.

For its part, Apple released a statement Saturday to refute the CCTV report and clarify what it does with location data that iOS 7 collects.

“Our customers want and expect their mobile devices to be able to quickly and reliably determine their current locations for specific activities such as shopping, travel, finding the nearest restaurant or calculating the amount of time it takes them to get to work,” the statement reads in part. “We do this at the device level. Apple does not track users’ locations–Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.”

frequent locations

A tap of a toggle lets you disable iOS 7’s Frequent Locations feature.

The statement goes on to explain that Apple “does not have access to Frequent Locations or the location cache on any user’s iPhone at any time,” and that the company has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services.” 

You can, of course, turn off the Frequent Locations service, and it only takes a few moments to do so. Go to the Settings app on your iPhone, tap Privacy, then tap Location Services. Next, scroll to the bottom of the list, then tap System Services. On the following screen, tap Frequent Locations, then slide the Frequent Locations toggle to the Off position.

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