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24 Jan 2018 6:49
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  •   Home > News > Politics

    Apple: China's iCloud users worried as tech giant prepares to give data to state-owned company

    Chinese users of Apple's iCloud service are worried about new terms and conditions released by the tech giant, which is partnering up with a government-owned company to operate cloud servers in the country.

    Chinese users of Apple's iCloud service are worried about new terms and conditions released by the tech giant, which has partnered up with a government-owned company to operate cloud servers in the country.

    Apple said the new arrangement with the Chinese internet services company Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data (GCBD) — which is owned by the Government of Guizhou province in south-west China — will allow it to comply with Chinese regulations and improve the quality of its cloud service.

    iCloud lets users store data from their devices remotely on a server run by Apple, allowing users to sync their photos, videos and other data across multiple devices.

    As of February 28, those servers will be operated by GCBD within China.

    A new sentence inserted into iCloud's terms and conditions tells Chinese users Apple and GCBD will both have access to their data.

    "You understand and agree that Apple and GCBD will have access to all data that you store on this service," it said.

    "[This includes] the right to share, exchange and disclose all user data, including Content, to and between each other under applicable law."

    The sentence was added to a section covering Apple and GCBD's rights to disclose content stored on the servers to police and government officials.

    In a statement to the website 9to5mac, Apple said it remained committed to "transparency" in its Chinese operations.

    "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," it said.

    'Best advertisement for moving overseas'

    Some onlookers were quick to take Apple to task for what they considered a move that encourages and promotes China's censorship policies.

    "It is appalling that @tim_cook and @Apple are doubling down on enabling Chinese censorship & surveillance with this decision," US Republican senator Ted Cruz wrote on Twitter, referring to the company's CEO Tim Cook.

    Posting about the upcoming service changes on Chinese social media, the state-run Global Times newspaper made no mention of those concerns.

    "Have you often experienced slow access speed and freezes when you sync your iPhone photos, videos, documents and apps to iCloud?" it wrote on its official Weibo account.

    "This situation will soon to be over."

    However Weibo users responding to the post were not convinced the change was solely aimed at improving performance.

    "Can anyone explain why every single country does not need to take over the iCloud service to boost access speed?" user CodeLyoko wrote.

    "The best advertisement for moving overseas," wrote another, using the name StevenChan754.

    Others were not convinced Chinese iCloud users faced particular risks when it comes to government authorities accessing their information.

    "I use [a Chinese cloud service] to sync my photos," one user wrote.

    "Do you really think only China monitors its people?"

    Apple's relationship with China

    The shift in how Apple manages cloud data for Chinese customers comes in the wake of new cybersecurity legislation, which came into effect late last year.

    The law change means all cloud data on Chinese citizens held by companies must now be stored on local servers.

    Apple has previously come under fire for complying with the Chinese Government's internet restrictions.

    In August last year the company removed VPN software — which allows users to access websites banned in China — from the country's App Store.

    China is an attractive market for Western tech companies despite the dilemma of increasingly strict internet censorship.

    Mr Cook, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook executives attended the Chinese Government's World Internet Conference in the town of Wuzhen last month.

    Their attendance marked the first time high-profile Western industry leaders have attended the meeting, which promotes Chinese-style internet governance to other countries.

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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