Chinese Authorities Arrest 20 Apple Contractors For Selling Customer Data

Is your Apple ID and other data safe? Chinese authorities recently arrested twenty-two people accused of selling the personal data of Apple customers. It is currently unclear how many customers have been affected.

Police officers from the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Fujian arrested the suspects this past weekend. Twenty of the the twenty-two suspects were “domestic employees of Apple” and worked for a “domestic direct sales company and outsourcing company”. The suspects reportedly used an “internal company computer system” to collect the data. We do not know the identities of the suspects or the vocations of the other two suspects at the this moment.

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Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California. Image from: Wikimedia Commons, Joe Ravi

The suspects sold individual pieces of data for between 10 CNY ($1.50) and 180 CNY ($26.50). They allegedly made roughly 50 million CNY or $7.36 million from the scam. They collected names, phone numbers, and Apple identification numbers, however, it is unclear whether they also sold passwords or financial information. It is also uncertain whether the data belonged to Chinese customers or Apple users in other countries.

Apple has faced its fair share of controversy and scandal in Asia. Last year ten Chinese employees of an Apple contractor sold the data of more than 80,000 users. This past December, a former senior manager at the Taiwanese corporation Foxconn was indicted for stealing and selling 5,700 iPhones in China. It is estimated that the manager, identified by his family name Tsai, pocketed $50 million TWD ($1.56 million USD) during his escapades. Foxconn, particularly its Chinese plants, are one of Apple’s main suppliers.

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Image from: Flickr, Jon Bragg

All of this comes at a time when Apple’s future in China is up in the air. On one hand, Apple is investing heavily in China. The company invested $45 million in a research center in Beijing last year and recently backed Foxconn’s bid for Toshiba’s memory chip unit. On the other hand, sales of iPhones and other Apple devices dropped by 21 percent this past year. Chinese smartphones sales have actually risen by twelve percent, however, and Oppo is currently the top player.

Apple spokespeople have declined to comment on the current crime.