Apple is under fire for moving iCloud data to China; Amnesty International blasts move

“Apple’s latest move in China has privacy advocates and human rights groups worried,” Sherisse Pham reports for CNNMoney. “The U.S. company is moving iCloud accounts registered in mainland China to state-run Chinese servers on Wednesday along with the digital keys needed to unlock them.”

“‘The changes being made to iCloud are the latest indication that China’s repressive legal environment is making it difficult for Apple to uphold its commitments to user privacy and security,’ Amnesty International warned in a statement Tuesday,” Pham reports. “The criticism highlights the tradeoffs major international companies are making in order to do business in China, which is a huge market and vital manufacturing base for Apple.”

“The company taking over Apple’s Chinese iCloud operations is Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD), which is owned by the government of Guizhou province,” Pham reports. “‘Our choice was to offer iCloud under the new laws or discontinue offering the service,’ an Apple spokesman told CNN. The company decided to keep iCloud in China, because cutting it off ‘would result in a bad user experience and less data security and privacy for our Chinese customers,’ he said.”

“‘China is an authoritarian country with a long track record of problematic human rights abuses, and extensive censorship and surveillance practices,’ [Ronald Deibert, director of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which studies the intersection of digital policy and human rights] said,” Pham reports. “Apple users in China should take ‘extra and possibly inconvenient precautions not to store sensitive data on Apple’s iCloud,’ he advised.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote last July:

China is critical for Apple in every way from sales to product assembly, so Apple continues to kowtow to China.

With Apple’s strong stance – in other places of the world – on users’ rights and privacy, it’s a bad look for the company and a tough tightrope that Tim Cook — [winner of Newseum’s 2017 Free Expression Award in the Free Speech category, no less] — is trying to walk.

And, as we wrote yesterday:

Apple should immediately make iCloud an opt-in service, rather than opt-out, for Chinese users.

Chinese users should not use iCloud for any data they wish to keep private.

Exit question: Why can’t Chinese citizens be trusted with freedom?

Apple moves to store iCloud keys in China, raising human rights fears – February 26, 2018
Apple’s China lesson: Think different, but not too different – February 26, 2018
Apple in talks for first order from a Chinese chipmaker – February 14, 2018
Apple utterly dominates the premium smartphone market in China with 85% share – February 7, 2018
Apple warns users who created Apple IDs overseas on dodging China’s new data law – January 12, 2018
How U.S. iCloud users can ensure their data isn’t migrated to state-owned servers in China – January 11, 2018
Apple sets date to turn over cloud operations to a state-owned data center in China – January 10, 2018
U.S. Senate Republican Marco Rubio hits Tim Cook for kowtowing to China – December 13, 2017
Apple CEO Cook kissed the ring in China because he had no choice – December 4, 2017
Apple CEO Cook in China: Internet must have security, humanity – December 4, 2017
U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy blast Apple CEO Tim Cook for removing VPN apps from App Store in China – October 20, 2017
Apple issues statement regarding removal of VPN apps from China App Store – July 31, 2017
Apple removes VPN apps from China App Store – July 29, 2017
Apple sets up China data center to meet new cybersecurity rules – July 12, 2017
Analyst: China iPhone sales are pivotal for Apple – June 26, 2017
In bid to improve censorship, China to summon Apple execs to discuss stricter App Store oversight – April 20, 2017
Apple CEO Tim Cook named recipient of Newseum’s 2017 Free Expression Award – February 2, 2017


    1. Tim Cook’s charade as social justice warrior is exposed. Tim Cook is more interested in his $250,000 per day income than the principles he espouses from the other side of his mouth.

        1. They can fuck off and not do business in America. Tim Cook is a damned traitor. He doesn’t want to unlock an iPhone for the FBI citing civil liberties. Then he spearheads and censorship campaign against independent (i.e. that isn’t MSM shitstain propaganda), as well as moving his operations to China. I think we should ban their products and their operating at all inside the US. The founder of Apple is rolling in his grave. He was probably as left wing nut as the rest is silly-con valley but he wasn’t so bitchy and brazen as to sink his company in the nation that is the reason it exists in the first place. Sadly, we are going headlong into a full blown war. Inside America, not in some foreign shithole sandbox.

  1. I think some perspective is needed here: this is NOT an Apple issue. The Chinese government requires this from everyone, so Chinese Apple customers are no worse or better off than Chinese customers using other devices/storage methods.

    That said, it sad that Big Brother is alive and well in China…

    1. How did Apple shoot itself in the foot? Its choices were to comply with Chinese law or face the consequences of breaking the law. Do you see any other options?

      Unfortunately, this won’t end with China. Other countries are likely to adopt the rule that local data (and the keys to encrypted data) must be stored on local servers subject to local law. Both the US and the EU are taking the alternative approach of making data associated with local persons and companies on foreign servers subject to local search orders, even if the privacy rules in the server’s location would forbid access.

      1. By making promises, or at least unclear promises, it can’t keep. Advertised promises such as the expectation of privacy, the unreasonable expectation of almost absolute security, and missing performance promises. That’s how.

      2. No longer selling the iPhone is still an option, just not one that is profitable to Apple. That option also has the side benefit of upholding Apple’s Security commitments and keeps the encryption keys (at least legally) out of foreign government hands.

        Yes, it is a slippery slope. Once a capitulation is made, it is hard to refuse other comers.

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