Apple today confirmed that its iCloud services in mainland China will be operated by a Chinese company from next month (via People's Daily, China). The firm, called Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data (GCBD), is owned by the Guizhou provincial government in southern China, and will manage Apple's new $1 billion data center, which opened in the region last year.
Apple said customers based in the country had been contacted and advised to examine new terms and conditions, which include a clause that both Apple and the Chinese firm will have access to all data stored on iCloud servers.
Apple on Wednesday announced its decision to relocate Chinese mainland customers’ iCloud data from the U.S. to China, promising that the relocation will not compromise users' information security pic.twitter.com/AYIvFNnMUF — People's Daily,China (@PDChina) January 10, 2018
Apple originally announced in July its intention to set up its first China data center in partnership with a local internet services company. The operational change was agreed between Apple and the Chinese government, bringing the tech giant into compliance with the country's cloud computing regulations, introduced in June 2017.
The cybersecurity law requires foreign firms to store data within the country. Other tech firms with data centers in China include Microsoft and Amazon, which will also need to comply with the new rules.
Apple said the partnership with GCBD would also allow it to improve the speed and reliability of iCloud services products, but assured customers that no backdoors had been created into any of its systems. However, critics claim the move will make it easier for Beijing to spy on users in the country. Last year, Apple was accused of kowtowing to state demands that it remove virtual private network (VPN) apps from its App Store in mainland China.
Shortly after, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple "would rather not remove apps", but like it does in other countries, "we follow the law where we do business". Cook also said he hoped China would ease up on the restrictions over time.
In Wednesday's announcement, Apple said customer iCloud data will be transferred from February 28, and customers living in mainland China who did not want to use iCloud operated by GCBD had been given the option to terminate their account.
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