Apple Turns Over China iCloud Services to State-Owned Data Firm

By Bridget O'Donnell, January 11, 2018

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Apple has announced that iCloud services in China — including data storage — will be managed by a local government-owned company starting late next month.

The American tech company began contacting customers this week notifying them of new terms and conditions. Among the new terms is a clause which turns 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 iCloud accounts registered inside China*, will take effect on February 28, 2018.

Apple iCloud China
A message sent from Apple to iCloud users in China.

The partnership “will allow us improve the speed and reliability of our iCloud services products while also complying with newly passed regulations that cloud services be operated by Chinese companies," Apple said in a statement.

A closer look at the new terms reveals that iCloud data (i.e. photos, videos, documents and backups) will be stored on GCBD's servers (translation via Quartz):

"If you understand and agree, Apple and GCBD have the right to access your data stored on its servers. This includes permission sharing, exchange, and disclosure of all user data (including content) according to the application of the law."

Founded in 2014, GCBD is a data storage firm owned by the local government of Guizhou province.

Apple's new terms for users on the Chinese mainland have been issued to comply with the country's new Cybersecurity Law, which began its first phase of implementation in 2017. Among some of the law's new regulations is a policy which requires foreign-owned companies to store data generated within China domestically.

Apple insists the new terms will not impact user privacy.

"Apple has strong data privacy and security protections in place and no backdoors will be created into any of our systems,” its statement said.

However, the new terms have raised privacy and surveillance concerns, with some saying that the Chinese government might now have the opportunity to monitor Apple customers.

* You can always switch your Apple ID account to another country or region. Read how to do that here; note that you'll need an international payment method.

[Images via @PDChina, BBC]

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