Home Censored Maps Hard-Wired on Chinese iPhone 4

Censored Maps Hard-Wired on Chinese iPhone 4

If you were thinking of getting your iPhone 4 from China to avoid signing onto a two-year contract or being locked into using AT&T as your carrier, you might want to reconsider. According to geopolitical blog Ogle Earth, the new iPhone being sold in China comes with a Maps app, which is powered by Google Maps, that is “hard-wired to Google Maps’ censored dataset for China, where the depiction of China’s borders complies with the official propaganda of the Chinese government.

The issue here, according to Ogle Earth, is that an iPhone user was previously able to sign on to a Virtual Personal Network (VPN) to bypass China’s censored maps, but now those maps are “hard-wired”.

If I went online in China without a VPN, the Google Maps dataset was an English-language version that nevertheless had borders which complied with Chinese law (i.e. they show Arunachal Pradesh as being Chinese). As soon as I turned on my VPN to tunnel into San Francisco, the refreshed base map automatically showed the proper international version, the one which the rest of the world gets to see. […] But my new Chinese iPhone 4 does things differently, even though ostensibly it is meant to be running exactly the same software as my old phone. The Maps app always shows China’s borders as the Chinese government would have them — regardless of whether I use my VPN or not. If I take this phone to the US or Europe, it will still show the same crippled, semi-fictional base map. And there is no way that I can change it.

A commenter on Ogle Earth’s post notes that the problem extends beyond borders within China. The Chinese iPhone 4 also provides Canadian street names only in Chinese characters, not Roman lettering.

“No taxi driver in Toronto is going to know the Chinese street names,” they point out. “Without having English it makes the maps app entirely useless outside of China and the few places that have English names as well.”

Maps have become increasingly controversial in China as of late, with the company implementing new standards last May requiring “all Internet map servers to keep servers storing map data inside the country and provide public Internet protocol addresses.” In accordance with these regulations, companies also had to apply for a license with the Chinese government. When we last looked, Google had yet to apply and it looks like the company stil hasn’t.

Google did not respond to our request for a comment.

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