Apple has seen the police in China announce last week it arrested 22 people for allegedly selling the personal data of Apple customers.
According to a report in The New York Times, police in Cangnan County in the eastern province of Zhejiang said the thieves have earned around $7.3 million from selling the data. In a statement, the police in China said Apple employees acquired personal data of customers illegally and that 20 of the 22 arrested worked for companies that sell products to Apple or are Apple contractors. The police did not provide information about two of the suspects, noted the report. Apple’s products are sold in electronic stores and in small booths in malls, as well as in Apple stores, reported the New York Times.
The breach in data privacy consisted of names, Apple ID numbers and the phone numbers of Apple customers. The police didn’t say if financial information such as a credit card accounts or passwords were also stolen.
The data theft comes as Apple is facing a slowdown in sales of its iPhones, as it faces more competition from cheaper Chinese-based handset manufacturers and as consumers await the launch of the iPhone 8. Apple has also been the subject of increased scrutiny on the part of the government of China.
While cyberattacks are happening all over the world, China is becoming a new breeding ground for computer hackers. The New York Times noted that in 2016, China tried 361 criminal cases centering on personal data violations, up from 176 in 2015.
“It is very common. Every one of us can feel it,” said Xie Yongjiang, associate director for the Institute of Internet Governance and Law at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, in an interview on cybersecurity with the paper. “For example, after your child is born at a hospital, someone will phone you and ask if you need baby products. When your child turns three, someone will phone you and ask if your child would go to their nursery school. When your child reaches primary school age, someone will phone you to ask if you need training services.”