Thursday, 21 November, 2019

Apple criticized for giving browsing data to Tencent

Apple’s Safari Browser on iOS Sends Browsing Information to China’s Tencent Which May Log IP Addresses Apple under scrutiny for sending Safari browsing data to China's Tencent
Emmett Howard | 17 October, 2019, 17:27

Since February at least and perhaps longer, Safari's Safe Browsing framework has been receiving hash prefixes of known malware sites from Google Safe Browsing database, or for users in mainland China, Tencent's Safe Browsing database.

Apple has issued a public statement to explain how its Fraudulent Website Warning system works in Safari, emphasizing that despite partnering with Chinese company Tencent on making this feature more accurate, the websites you visit aren't exposed.

Apple's partnership with Tencent is under fire by users who fear that their web browsing data might be shared with Tencent and the Chinese government. While this has always meant that Google gets some data from you each time you visit a website using Safari, this is limited to your IP address and "information calculated from the website address".

Apple was quick to allay user concerns this weekend after someone spotted that it was working with Chinese company Tencent to check its users' website requests for malicious URLs. Saying that the safe browsing feature by Tencent only affects devices sets within the China region, while devices outside of China are checked and verified by Google instead. Users have discovered that iOS 13 (and possibly versions starting from iOS 12.2) sends some data to Tencent Safe Browsing in addition to Google's system.

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Apple responds to reports that it is sending data to Chinese tech company Tencent through the Fraudulent Website Warning feature. "Safe Browsing then warns users when they navigate to websites that could steal their personal information or install software created to take over their computers". These sheltered perusing suppliers may likewise log your IP address.

Apple has also been scrutinized for appeasing China.

"We deserve to be informed about this kind of change and to make choices about it", Matthew Green, a cryptographer and professor at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in a blog post. The feature can be turned off.

"When Fraudulent Website Warning is enabled, Safari will display a warning if the website you are visiting is a suspected phishing website". And the U.S. firm can only win back its market share by slashing its prices. If you normally practice very safe browsing habits and only visit known sites, this shouldn't be a big problem, but you'll have to be even more on your guard when it comes to visiting links from things like emails and text messages. Apple CEO Tim Cook later doubled down on the decision, stating in a letter that the app was "in violation of Hong Kong law" despite some calling into question the legitimacy of Cook's claims.

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