Back in June, the China-watching blogosphere turned inside out over reports that China-for-Christ superstar Bob Fu gave dissident Chen Guangcheng an iPhone laced with location-tracking spyware. The story was originally released by NYU technicians who found the alleged software, but oops it turns out the whole thing was bullshit.
Reuters posted an epically-long but absolutely wonderful summation of the Chen Guangcheng story here, which presented one of the first signs that something might be funky with the spyware claims:
Fu’s Apple devices were determined to have secret software on them allowing a third party to access both the devices’ files and their GPS systems, effectively turning them into tracking tools. Another NYU aide has a hazier memory, unable to recall whether the presence of deliberately installed spyware was established or whether technicians were instead trying to warn the team of potential vulnerabilities. […]
Fu maintains his innocence, saying all he did with the new devices was get a ChinaAid technician to install Skype and set up iCloud, a standard bit of Apple software that allows a user to remotely access a device’s files and – with a feature called Find My iPhone – track its location using its GPS system. “Heidi handed over all the passwords,” Fu says of his wife.
That article was published several weeks ago and this author—who, presumably like most 20-somethings, knows a fair amount about iPhones—thought it sounded a bit fishy. The fact that NYU may have misunderstood the function of basic Apple tiddlywinks and mistaken them for spyware seemed remote and this author—who, like most twenty-somethings, went to NYU and feels creeped out by Bob Fu—was willing to give the university the benefit of the doubt.
Turns out that was all horseshit, and NYU doesn’t know the first thing about Apple products, because Reuters has filed a new article which states:
New York University withdrew its claim on Monday that a close supporter of Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese dissident affiliated with the university through this summer, had tried to spy on Chen by giving him an iPad and iPhone loaded with hidden spyware, saying it was a “misunderstanding.” […]
“Professor Cohen and NYU have confirmed that, contrary to media reports, an iPad and iPhone given to Mr. Chen by China Aid contained no software designed to monitor communications or spy on Mr. Chen,” the statement said. “Professor Cohen and NYU regret that media reports may have had any negative impact on Bob Fu, his wife Heidi Cai, or China Aid.”
The claims by Cohen and others were made “in good faith” but were based on a “misunderstanding of the technology,” the statement said.
If any of the “hazier” minded NYU technicians happen to be reading this article, I humbly suggest that they acquaint themselves with www.apple.com/support/iphone.