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Apple Officially Transfers Chinese iCloud Services to State-Owned Data Firm

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Today marks the first official day that Apple’s China iCloud services will be managed by a state-owned data firm.

According to a new report from The Verge, the Cupertino company is moving iCloud accounts registered in mainland China to state-run Chinese servers on Wednesday along with the digital keys needed to unlock them.

Apple announced last month that it would be turning over the operation of Apple ID services for Chinese users to Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data (GCBD) in order to comply with new government regulations.

The new terms, which apply only to accounts registered inside China, affect all data stored on iCloud, including photos, videos, documents and backups.

Apple conceded the transfer to comply with Chinese laws regarding regulations on cloud services, requiring foreign firms to store data physically within the country. When Apple first made the announcement, they said that they “advocated against iCloud being subject to these laws.”

Despite the concession, Apple maintains a strong position in regards to its users’ privacy. “Apple has not created nor were we requested to create any backdoors and Apple will continue to retain control over the encryption keys to iCloud data,” an Apple spokesperson said.

“As with other countries, we will respond to legal requests for data that we have in our possession for individual users, never bulk data,” the spokesperson added.

This move will allow the Chinese government to use its own legal system to ask Apple for users’ iCloud data, whereas before it had to go through the American legal system. Herein lies the controversy in the move, as several human rights and digital security advocates now question whether Apple will be able to protect and maintain its customers’ privacy under the new laws.

“The changes being made to iCloud are the latest indication that China’s repressive legal environment is making it difficult for Apple to uphold its commitments to user privacy and security,” Amnesty International warned in a statement Tuesday.

The criticism highlights the tradeoffs major international companies are making in order to do business in China, which is a huge market and vital manufacturing base for Apple.

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  • Aleks Oniszczak

    I’m so glad to see Apple upholding ethics, principles and human rights over money. :/

  • swotam

    While I don’t see this as a good thing for Chinese users, you need to realize that most Chinese citizens see their internal political situation quite a bit differently than those outside their country because they are used to their government behaving the way it does. The moral outrage and finger wagging that goes on in Western countries on subjects such as this doesn’t necessarily resonate with people who have lived their entire lives within a system that fails to recognize the individual rights that the West seem to believe should be applied globally in the name of democracy and freedom. While the western tech press harps on this day after day as if it’s some apocalyptic disaster for personal freedom, the average Chinese would just shrug and say what else is new?

    You also overlook the fact that Apple is a publicly traded consumer electronics company, therefore pulling out of the Chinese market to “make a point” isn’t a realistic option. It won’t do anything except hurt Apple’s bottom line, and anger shareholders. It won’t accomplish anything useful either here or in China.

    While it makes for great click-bait, the bottom line is that any company that wants to do business in a foreign country must follow the laws and rules set by the government. Whether people outside that country who don’t live in that country agree or not with these laws and rules is largely irrelevant.

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    You make a lot of assumptions about me. I am aware of the points you make. When you say “you need to realize that most Chinese citizens see their internal political situation quite a bit differently than those outside their country” I know, but my points remain and I’ll show you why. Perhaps YOU “need to realize” that not everyone you communicate with is ignorant.

    Your first point that westerners value freedom while “the average Chinese would just shrug and say what else is new” doesn’t make it right. If I shrug my shoulders about Rogers, Bell and Telus ripping me off in some new way and say what else is new doesn’t mean I like it. It means I have no choice!

    You say, “You also overlook the fact that Apple is a publicly traded consumer electronics company” No, I do not. I’m saying Apple is choosing money over upholding ethics, principles and human rights. Are you saying something different? You argue that it will “hurt Apple’s bottom line”, yeah, that’s what happens when you choose ethics, principles and human rights over money.

    “It won’t accomplish anything useful either here or in China.” That’s called begging the question. I say that it WILL make a difference. You are pessimistic and don’t believe change is possible. I have seen lots of change happen. Smoking used to be common. No one used to use cell phones. The Berlin Wall fell. Things can change and people having principles and using their power for the betterment of humanity works. Apple has chosen the opposite direction.

    “any company that wants to do business in a foreign country must follow the laws and rules set by the government.” Um, no. Ever heard of lobbying? Did you notice Apple doesn’t pay as much taxes in many countries as other do? It’s because, despite the laws, Apple made agreements. They have the power to do so. And what did they do with their power here? It’s all about the money. My point is next time Apple talks about “ethics, principles and human rights”, remember that it only comes second to the money.

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