Apple is making a pivot from being a hardware company to being a company that provides services – something that turns Apple into a content creator and gives users more of an insight into the psyche of the Cupertino giant.
A new report has suggested that, just as many have suspected for a long time, Apple is in the business of promoting privacy and human rights, while at the same time wanting to pander to China – a country whose attitudes towards human rights often don’t align with the standard set by the rest of the world, and whose privacy-invasive use of technology is fast becoming a dystopian nightmare.
BuzzFeed News has reported that Eddy Cue, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet software and services, and Morgan Wandell, its head of international content development, have specifically said that, for their new Apple TV+ service, they don’t want any content that would anger China.
Apple is making a major push into the TV and movie streaming market on November 1st when it launches Apple TV+, a Netflix rival. And it appears that the company doesn’t want to step on China’s toes in any way that could jeopardize Apple’s revenue in the country.
According to the report, as early as 2018, during the Apple TV+ programming decisions, it was then that Apple leaders told content creators that they didn’t want to portray China in a “poor light”.
It was part of Apple's efforts to stay in China’s good graces after a 2016 incident where China shut down Apple’s Books Store and iTunes Movies just six months after they were launched in the region.
Apple’s revenue in China runs into the region of tens of billions of dollars per year and so it’s not surprising that the company would want to tread carefully.
However this – combined with Apple’s constant marketing spiel about privacy and its CEO Tim Cook using every interview chance he gets to say that “privacy is a human right” – directly contradicts its role in China and is a stance that is increasingly obviously duplicitous. Yet, Apple fails to address it’s double face.
Especially in light of recent events where Apple drew severe criticism from even its most loyal fans when it removed a Hong Kong Map app that was protecting protestors from violent police confrontations from the App Store, scrutiny of the company in relation to China is more heightened than ever.
Apps disappear all the time on the App store – with rumors suggesting that some are at the behest of China. Developers told BuzzFeed News that disappearing apps on the App Store are a regular occurrence.
“We just get a phone call from Apple and they say ‘We just got a call from the Chinese government’ and five minutes later our app is off the App Store,” one US technology executive told BuzzFeed News. “It’s not a line of communication that would be open to any discussion.”
“They have so much market power in general and they wield that pretty indiscriminately,” the US technology executive said of Apple.
App developers are increasingly suggesting that, if Apple wants to continue to push privacy and human rights as foundational values at the company, it’s going to have to get out of China.
Just as Apple wants no supplier or developer to have too much power over them, they shouldn’t want any foreign government — especially THIS one — to have the level of control that China has over them.
It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be expensive.
But get out of China.
— Marco Arment (@marcoarment) October 11, 2019
“Apple was wise enough to invest heavily in end-to-end encryption and retaining as little data as possible in response to increasingly invasive governments and police. I hope they’re wise and brave enough now to start the long, expensive process of removing themselves from China,” said Overcast developer Marco Arment.
Apple has also drawn scrutiny this year when, in a statement about a security breach, it failed to mention China as the culprit of an egregious privacy-invasive attempt to spy on Uighur Muslims.