Apple “Condemned” By The House of Commons For Restricting AirDrop In China

A change that Apple made when they released iOS 16.1 is that they changed the functionality of AirDrop. Up until that point you had three choices:

  • Receiving off
  • Contacts Only
  • Everyone

But if you have your iPhone in China, this is what you saw AFTER iOS 16.1 hit the streets:

  • Receiving off
  • Contacts Only
  • Everyone For 10 Minutes

This was due to the fact that protestors in China were using AirDrop to anonymously and wirelessly share messages and protest literature, and even organize demonstrations, on the then-open AirDrop network. I am guessing that this got the Chinese government upset, and they went to Apple to do something about it. Which Apple clearly did.

This has led to Apple being accused of folding up like a cheap suit to the Chinese government. This despite the fact that Apple loves to use the words “human rights” in a lot of their marketing. And they’re being called out for that. For example, here in Canada The House of Commons on Wednesday unanimously passed a motion to “condemn” Apple for restricting the “Everyone” option for the AirDrop feature on its devices in China, where it was being used to get around government censors and organize protests:

By unanimous consent, it was resolved, — That, whereas,

(i) protesters in China who are fighting for basic human rights and freedoms have been using an Airdrop feature on iPhones to avoid government censors,
(ii) Apple has announced its decision to disable that feature solely for phones in China,
(iii) such a move will make it more difficult for the protesters to avoid the authoritarian restrictions on communications,
(iv) other tech giants like Google have long collaborated with the Chinese regime in its policies to control online content and communication,
the House, therefore, condemn the decision by Apple and other tech giants for their complicity in the crackdown against peaceful protesters in China.

Now when Apple releases iOS 16.2 this week, this “feature” if you want to call it that is going to be expanded to the rest of the planet. But let’s be clear here. The only reason why Apple will be doing this is to give themselves cover when it comes to how they do business in China. Tim Cook and company are clearly more interested in gaining marketshare in China than doing what is right. And they need to be held to account for that view until they change course. So while what The House of Commons did this week is a bit of a token gesture, Apple should know that they are under scrutiny. And eventually that scrutiny will become more and more problematic to their business if they aren’t careful.

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