China To Restrict AirDrop, Bluetooth File-Sharing, Citing National Security

After protests last year, Chinese cyber regulator to clamp down on wireless file-sharing technology on national security grounds

China is to implement a fresh crack down on technology, as it is now proposing to restrict the use of wireless file-sharing technology.

CNN reported that the Cyberspace Administration of China, the powerful internet watchdog that reports to a body headed by President Xi Jinping, has issued a draft proposal on new rules clamping down on the use of Bluetooth and Apple’s AirDrop on national security grounds.

The move comes after protesters in China used Apple’s AirDrop during anti-government protests in October 2022 to share content – bypassing China’s strict internet censorship.

File-sharing proposals

Weeks after that in November, Apple limited AirDrop functionality in that country – when it quietly issued an update that seemed to only impact iPhone users in China.

Now according to the CNN report, the aim of the new Chinese regulations is to “maintain national security and social public interests” by regulating the use of close-range wireless communication tools such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other technologies, it said.

People must not publish or share “illegal or harmful” information on such networks and should report violations to the regulator, CNN noted. Those who create or support such networks should require users to provide their real names and other personal information.

The draft proposals from the Cyberspace Administration of China reportedly says service providers should conduct security assessments when launching any new apps or functions that are capable of “mobilising the public” or enabling “public expression.”

The regulator is seeking public feedback on the proposed rules until 6 July.

Other than AirDrop, Google’s Nearby Share allows users to transfer data between Android and Chrome OS devices via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, CNN noted.

Chinese phone makers Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo also offer similar services.

Challenging environment

Western firm operating in China typical face stiff challenges dealing with China’s strict rules and censorship.

In October 2021 for example Microsoft shut down its local version of LinkedIn in mainland China.

The software giant cited the increased censorship that China was practising online, as the principle reason for the closure.

LinkedIn was the last major US-operated social network still operating in China.

Then in November 2021 Yahoo pulled its operations out of China, amid a worsening regulatory and censorship environment.

On the same day Epic Games also revealed it was withdrawing the Chinese version of Fortnite, its popular battle-royale game, from mainland China.

Google meanwhile decided to close down its China operations in 2010, after a notorious hack in 2009 and 2010 that prompted a diplomatic incident between the US and Beijing.

A decade ago, Google accused Chinese hackers of carrying out the attacks on the Gmail accounts of dissidents.

China of course denied the Google allegation but then restricted or blocked nearly all Google’s services in the country.

More recently China’s internet regulator in May 2023 banned chips made by US semiconductor firm Micron from being used by operators of critical infrastructure, after alleging the company’s products posed a “major security risk”.