Apple’s long had a turbulent relationship with China, from trouble with regulators over iTunes Movies and the iBooks store, to Apple News censorship, to numerous patent disputes. Now, the firm is facing more problems in the Asian nation after Chinese authorities announced a network of insiders has been selling millions of dollars’ worth of stolen data.
It was revealed yesterday that Zhejiang police arrested 22 people in connection with selling the personal information of an unspecified number of Apple customers on the black market.
Earlier reports claimed 20 of the 22 suspects were official Apple employees in China, but they were actually employed by Apple suppliers, vendors, and outsourcing firms, not the Cupertino company itself. Police said that one of the outsourced vendors was a direct marketing company. The authorities did not release details about the other two people arrested.
The information included users’ names, phone numbers, Apple IDs, and other data. There was no word on whether it also included passwords and financial information.
Each data point was sold for between $1.47- $11.78 and ultimately brought in $7.36 million for the scammers. It’s unclear whether the stolen information was limited to Chinese Apple users, or if it included those from other locations.
Authorities had been investigating the sale of Apple customer data since January, and began making arrests, which reached across three different provinces, on May 3.
The theft and trade of private customer information is an increasing problem in China. The country tried 361 criminal cases involving illegally attained personal data last year, up from 176 in 2015, said Xie Yongjiang, associate director for the Institute of Internet Governance and Law at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, via the New York Times.