An Apple Indonesia agreement could force the company to hand over to the government the personal data of iCloud users.
Other tech companies also signed the agreement after the government set a deadline to avoid fines or even being banned from operating in the country.
Apple Indonesia agreement
The Financial Times reported:
The world’s biggest tech groups have signed up to a law in Indonesia that campaigners warn threatens freedom of expression in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, in the latest compromise by the sector to retain access to an important market.
Social media companies including Meta, TikTok and Twitter have registered for a license at the Indonesian communications ministry under which they may have to censor content and hand over users’ data. Some registered only hours before a deadline at midnight on Wednesday.
Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Netflix and Spotify have also signed up.
For social media companies, the agreement means that they can be forced to remove content critical of the government. For Apple, it could mean being required to hand over the personal data of anyone suspected of being opposed to the government, with fears that journalists would be particular targets.
Jakarta has said its regulations protect personal data and ensure a “positive” digital space in the country. But the vague terminology has raised concerns among journalists given the use of social media platforms for activism and the broad use of existing laws to target reporters.
The criteria for disturbing the public are “flexible” and “rubbery”, Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists said in a statement. It warned that the authorities might consider news revealing human rights violations or crimes disturbing public order.
This is another example of Apple being faced with a stark dilemma: comply with a law which conflicts with its values, or withdraw from a country.
The dilemma is at its most potent in China, where Apple has been forced to do a number of distasteful things, like removing news apps and VPN apps from its App Store in order to comply with government demands to censor what their citizens can see. There, Apple really does have little choice, given that by far the largest proportion of its manufacturing base is within the country.
With smaller countries, Apple does have a choice. It could take an ethical stand and refuse to comply, waiting to see whether the government really does force it out. Others have suggested that the Indonesian government would have backed down if tech giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft had all banded together and refused to sign.
Apple is under additional pressure because the company uses privacy as a key marketing tool. But the company’s stance has been so far that it is better to offer citizens of such countries access to Apple tech, even if this involves compromising the company’s ethics. Some take this at face value, while others accuse the company of prioritizing profit over principles.
The real test for Apple would come if China invaded Taiwan, emboldened by the lack of external military response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is a nightmare scenario we raised back in March, and which US and UK security services recently said is a real possibility.
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