Apple restricts iPhone AirDrop functionality in China

Apple has introduced a limitation, in China, of the AirDrop functionality of its iPhones, used in particular by opponents of power to share files. The system makes it possible to quickly exchange images, documents and videos between Apple devices, coming either from all iPhone owners nearby (by default), or only from contacts registered by the receiver.

The latest version of the iOS 16.1.1 operating system, rolled out on Wednesday, November 9, limits to ten minutes in the country the duration during which an iPhone owner can receive files from people who are not part of his family. contacts. To continue to receive files in this mode beyond this period, the user must have reactivated this option in the seconds preceding the fateful delay. This complicates things for critics of power who would like to discreetly spread documents or information around them.

Emoji removed

This development comes after protesters used AirDrop to broadcast visuals opposing leader Xi Jinping and the government – ​​the use of AirDrop to circumvent China’s very strict censorship has been well documented for the past three years, and again recently.

At this stage, it only concerns iPhones sold in China. Apple didn’t say why the change was introduced in the country, but said it plans to roll it out globally within the next year to combat unsolicited file sharing.

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The giant of Cupertino (California) has been the subject in the past of criticism deploring that it modifies the functions of its iPhone to please the Chinese power. In 2019, Apple removed the flag emoji of Taiwan, the island that Beijing claims to regain full control, for its users in Hong Kong and Macao. The firm has also removed virtual private network (VPN) applications regularly used to evade Beijing regulators. Many of Apple’s services are also inaccessible in China – the world’s largest telecoms market – such as Apple TV+, iTunes Store, paid podcasts, Apple Books and Apple Arcade.

Social malaise

The central power is subject to increasing criticism born of social malaise. In October, anti-government slogans appeared in several cities, including the capital, before the XXe Party congress. During pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, activists used AirDrop to broadcast their demands. Beijing has also chosen to maintain its “zero Covid” policy.involving a severe regime of confinements, tests and quarantines as soon as a few cases appear, which arouses mistrust in the population.

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AirDrop has also been the subject of controversy outside of China since its launch in 2013 for inappropriate uses. Last year there were numerous reports of air flights being delayed or canceled after passengers shared false terror alerts or pornographic images with their neighbours.

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Apple restricts iPhone AirDrop functionality in China


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