Apple has confirmed plans to relocate mainland Chinese customers’ iCloud data to China.
The Cupertino company revealed that it will begin migrating data to a local datacenter from February 28, after having opened a new facility in Guizhou last July to comply with cybersecurity laws introduced last June.
Indeed, Chinese regulators have been tightening rules on foreign data and cloud services while implementing surveillance measures and scrutinizing cross-border data transfers. Amazon recently announced it was selling off the hardware infrastructure from its public cloud business to a Chinese partner called Sinnet to comply with the same laws.
Similarly, Apple’s iCloud business in China will be operated by Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data (GCBD), a company owned by southern China’s Guizhou provincial government. Despite this, Apple has previously stated that it would create no backdoors for governments or other organizations to access customer data, a claim it maintained today when it announced its plans for transferring data to local 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
Before agreeing to the new terms and conditions, it’s worth heeding a rather significant clause that seemingly gives Apple and GCBD unbridled access to user data. The clause reads that the duo will: “… have access to all data that you store on this service, including the right to share, exchange, and disclose all user data, including content, to and between each other under applicable law,” according to a CNN report.
Storing customer data locally should, of course, allow Apple to offer speedier and more reliable cloud services. However, this isn’t the core motivating factor in Apple’s decision here. If it wants Chinese authorities on its side, it has no option but to comply with local laws.
Apple drew criticism last year when it bowed to pressure by removing virtual private networks (VPNs) and certain messaging apps from the Chinese App Store, though CEO Tim Cook recently stated that he was “optimistic” the apps may return in the future, despite there being little sign of this happening.
The bottom line is that China is Apple’s third-biggest market for sales, and if it wants to continue pursuing growth in the country, it will have to play ball with local authorities.