China is Apple's fastest-growing market and the company has acceded to unusual government requests, such as using China-based data centres and incorporating a Chinese WiFi standard, drawing criticism over whether it was turning a blind eye to government snooping. China accounts for a quarter of Apple's revenue, with sales of $18bn last quarter. Apple attempted to address these concerns in court documents filed on Tuesday in preparation for its hearing next week in the case brought by the FBI.
The Department of Justice has accused Apple of making special accommodations in China. In a court submission, Apple's software head defended its dealings with governments around the world. However, he stopped short of saying that user data had never been accessible by any foreign government.
Yet Craig Federighi, head of software engineering, said in a statement that "Apple has never made user data, whether stored on the iPhone or in iCloud, more technologically accessible to any country's government. It is my understanding that Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a 'backdoor' in any of our products or services." The Financial Times report noted that to clarify, Federighi stated that Apple had never shared the iPhone source code with any government."
Of course user data in iCloud would have been accessible by a foreign government with a court order as it has all along in the U.S; a privacy flaw that Apple is reportedly working to remedy at this moment.
To make that point crystal clear, the Financial Times report noted that "Apple received requests from the Chinese government for data on more than 4,000 devices during the first half of last year, and complied with three-quarters of the requests. By comparison, Apple received more than 9,000 requests from the US during the same period."