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Apple restricts file sharing for Chinese iPhone users after protesting the government

Apple restricted file sharing for Chinese iPhone users Thursday, a month after reports that anti-government protesters were using the feature to share digital folders with strangers.

Apple restricted file sharing for Chinese iPhone users Thursday, a month after reports that anti-government protesters were using the feature to share digital folders with strangers.

Under the update of the AirDrop feature, users of smartphones sold by Apple in China can only opt in to receive files from non-contacts for 10 minutes before it turns off automatically. The feature previously had no time limit.

The update, rolled out in the operating system released overnight, makes it virtually impossible to receive unexpected files from strangers.

The change follows widespread reports of people using AirDrop to distribute leaflets criticizing the Chinese Communist Party in crowded public areas, inspired in part by a protest in Beijing where a man put up banners calling for the removal of President Xi Jinping. .

Chinese censors quickly deleted online videos and posts referring to the protest, while hundreds of users of the popular payment and chat app WeChat had their accounts blocked after speaking out about the rare act of rebellion.

Apple did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment and did not provide a reason for the specific change.

It said in the update description for users that the operating system now “contains bug fixes and security updates”.

Apple phones sold outside of mainland China did not appear to be affected by the update, while iPhones sold in China showed the limit regardless of which country the user’s App Store account was located in.

The California-based tech giant, which touts security and privacy protection as key features of its devices, has previously been criticized for alleged concessions to Beijing.

That included opening a data center in China and removing an app in 2019 that allowed pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong to track police.

It has also faced boycott threats in China as it stands in the crossfire of US-China tensions, with Beijing warning in 2020 that it could turn its citizens against Apple if Washington blocks Chinese apps.

Some Chinese social media users hailed the iPhone update on Thursday as a positive step in preventing unsolicited messages from strangers. One Weibo user said the change would “significantly reduce the likelihood of iPhone users being harassed.”

A handful wondered why the feature was only being rolled out on Chinese iPhones, with one Weibo commentator joking about Apple CEO Tim Cook’s friendliness with Beijing: “Is Tim Cook a member now or not?”

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