Apple under fire for sending browsing data to China

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Apple seemingly has a new relationship with Tencent.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Apple is under fire for sending Safari browser data to China.

It is known that Safari can send information to Google Safe Browsing to protect users against online phishing and scams. But it seems Apple’s browser is also sending similar data to Tencent in China.

Apple has been under scrutiny for a number of moves that may be seen as more than friendly toward China. Moves like hiding the Taiwan flag emoji on Mac and banning a Hong Kong protest app.

The latest discovery suggests Apple also has no qualms with aiding one of China’s biggest service and entertainment companies.

Safari ships browsing data to Tencent

“Apple, which often positions itself as a champion of privacy and human rights, is sending some IP addresses from users of its Safari browser on iOS to Chinese conglomerate Tencent,” reports Reclaim the Net.

Apple’s wasn’t trying to keep this a secret. Although it has only just come to light, Apple discloses the practice in its “About Safari Search & Privacy” terms, which you can find in the Settings app.

It states:

Before visiting a website, Safari may send information calculated from the website address to Google Safe Browsing and Tencent Safe Browsing to check if the website is fraudulent. These safe browsing providers may also log your IP address.

This feature is activated by default on iPhone and iPad, which means the majority of users will have potentially had their browsing information shared with Tencent. But users can disable it by toggling the “Fraudulent Website Warning” in Safari’s settings.

It helps make Safari more secure

“However, doing this makes browsing sessions less secure and leaves users vulnerable to accessing fraudulent websites,” notes Reclaim.

If you disable the feature, Safari will no longer warn you when you happen to stumble across a website that may be dangerous — like those set up for phishing scams.

It’s unclear when Apple started sending data to Tencent. Online reports indicates it was happening before the launch of iOS 13, with one user seeing the change in the iOS 12.2 beta back in February.

It’s also unclear whether this actually has any impact on users outside of China. But it is certainly mentioned in Safari’s terms on other territories, including the U.S. and the U.K.

Tencent a Communist Party ally

Apple’s new partnership is made even more controversial by the fact that Tencent is a alleged ally of the Chinese Communist Party.

It has reportedly collaborated with the government to censor users of its insanely popular WeChat app. Tencent has also developed pro-Communist Party games.

All this comes amid increasingly violent protests against the government in Hong Kong.