iPhone and Apple Watch users in China no longer see their geographic coordinates and altitude on the compass app.
According to reports from Chinese media and users, Apple has stopped showing some geographical information on the latest version of its compass application (Compass) to users in the mainland. . However, the general azimuth and position information remains. The change applies to updates latest software Apple’s, including iOS 15.1 released in China in late October 2021, and watchOS 8.3 released this week.
It remains unclear why some geographic information is no longer available to Chinese users. According to some speculations, the move could be related to the Beijing government’s stricter approach to data privacy. Others argue that it has to do with the government’s desire to limit the use of geographic information. In the community discussion section on Apple’s official mainland website, the question of whether the change was due to Chinese government policy or Apple’s fault received 269 upvotes.
Under China’s Law on Surveying and Mapping, first enacted in 2002, foreign organizations need to obtain permits from the State Council and the Chinese military, and must cooperate with China before “engaging in surveying and mapping activities”. In 2017, an amended version of the law was introduced, which included provisions requiring the government to step up oversight of internet mapping services.
On iPhones sold in China, Apple’s built-in Maps app gets map data from AutoNavi, the navigation service owned by Alibaba. In Apple’s current user guide for the compass app, the company notes that geographic coordinates and altitude aren’t available in certain countries and regions, but doesn’t detail or mention China. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Apple is often criticized for its censorship in China, which company the tech US says is necessary to comply with local laws and regulations. In 2016, Apple closed iBooks and stores iTunes Movies in the mainland, and since then has actively removed virtual private network (VPN) apps that netizens used to bypass the Great Firewall.