iCloud data belonging to Apple’s China-based users is now in the hands of the Chinese government.
According to a new report from TechCrunch, China Telecom, a state-owned carrier in China, is now in control of storing Chinese users’ iCloud data. It takes this duty from Guizhou-Cloud Big Data, who controversially gained operation control over Apple’s iCloud business in February.
The new terms, which apply only to accounts registered inside China, affect all data stored on iCloud, including photos, videos, documents, and backups.
Chinese state media has hailed the shift, but Chinese users have major privacy worries, claiming the government — known for its extreme citizen surveillance methods — will now be able to check personal data whenever it wishes.
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.
In 2017, Apple announced that it would be partnering with local Chinese firm, Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Development [GCBD], in handling operations of iCloud services for users in mainland China. In February this year, it was announced iCloud data of users in China would move to a new data centre in Guizhou province.
Apple said the shift was made so that it could comply with local cybersecurity laws. In a statement to Reuters, Apple said: “While we advocated against iCloud being subject to these laws, we were ultimately unsuccessful.”
“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 last February.