Apple told its Chinese iCloud customers that starting on February 28th, 2018, iCloud operations in China will be handed over to a local, state-owned business, according to BBC. The company warned users that the terms and conditions of using iCloud in China will change, and has made it possible for them to delete their accounts instead of going through with the hand over.
Apple also said that it, “has strong data-privacy and security protections in place and no backdoors will be created into any of our systems.”
The Chinese company is called Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Co., Ltd., which is owned by the Guizhou provincial government in southern China.
Apple gave a statement to 9to5Mac, saying:
Last year, we announced that Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data (GCBD) would become the operator of iCloud in China. As we said at the time, we’re committed to continuously improving the user experience, and our partnership with GCBD 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. Because of our commitment to transparency, there will be a series of customer communications over the course of the next seven weeks to make sure customers are well informed of the coming changes. Apple has strong data privacy and security protections in place and no backdoors will be created into any of our systems.”
China and Western Tech Companies
The move comes as China has forced Western companies to host cloud services on locally-owned and sited servers. China claims the move is to protect the privacy of its citizens’ data, but that’s laughable in that Chinese citizens have little or no privacy from the Chinese government.
It’s hard to make out from what we know so far how Apple can ensure that no backdoors will be created into any of its systems. The computers on which data is being stored will be under the control of another company, though Apple would well retain control over the encryption used to store and access that data.
This move was expected, as China has been exerting ever-greater control of—and placing restrictions on—Western technology companies in the last few years. We’ve covered coordinated media attacks on Apple from Chinese media in the past, and Apple has been forced to shut down iTunes video content and iBooks in China. Apple was also forced to remove VPN apps that allowed Chinese citizens use to bypass state censorship.