Apple makes Chinese transfer of iCloud data official, raising privacy concerns

Posted:
in iCloud
As planned, Apple on Wednesday transferred control of its Chinese iCloud data to a local firm, Guizhou-Cloud Big Data. The move is necessary to comply with local laws, but has drawn criticism for exposing customers to the authoritarian Chinese government.




The migration meets requirements that tech companies operating in the mainland also host relevant personal data there. Individual accounts will only be transferred once a person agrees to updated terms of service, Apple explained to Reuters.

GCBD has close ties to the Chinese government, which could make it comparatively simple for the government to spy on regional Apple customers and/or seize their data. In fact Reporters Without Borders has urged journalists to move any iCloud accounts out of the country, given the risks to them and their sources.

The one upside of the transfer is that Apple has promised more "speed and reliability" for Chinese willing to continue using iCloud.

The company and its CEO, Tim Cook, have sometimes been accused of placing market access over human rights concerns in China. Cook is not only making another appearance at the government-backed China Development Forum this year, but co-chairing it.

Users of Apple's iCloud in countries other than China are at no risk from the transfer.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    Everyone interesed in the subject should take 13 minutes and listen to Rene Ritchie on this:

    Rayz2016
  • Reply 2 of 21
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,335member
    Just be glad you do not live in China, ops forgot our own government spy on it own people as well.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 21
    I don't support Chinese protectionist policies but if one is concerned about "exposing customers to the authoritarian Chinese government", have you forgot that the majority of iPhones are made in China?  
    Avieshekleavingthebigg
  • Reply 4 of 21
    So what happens if you visit China or go to school in China or are sent there for a season for business?
    Does Apple keep your stuff outside PRC or do they transfer it to the servers in country?

    The inverse is also a good question:
    If a Chinese citizen lives overseas for school or work, does their iCloud data stay in China?
  • Reply 5 of 21
    This is all assuming that life cannot exist without Cloud storage of our data. How did we ever make it to the 21st century without the ability to store our data somewhere other than on our own computers. /s. If you don't want your government to  have access to your data, then don't put it in the Cloud. But we all know no one is looking for a simple solution, just drama.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 21
    In the end, and looking at the bigger picture, real change has to come from the Chinese people and All peoples, subject to their governments.
    This is true in China as it is in the US.   

    It is a constant struggle amongst those in Power, the Powerful ($$$$) and the People who Will or Will Not abide.
    ….and Yes, the current balance is different around the world, but is in constant flux all over the world too.
  • Reply 7 of 21
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,335member
    kent909 said:
    This is all assuming that life cannot exist without Cloud storage of our data. How did we ever make it to the 21st century without the ability to store our data somewhere other than on our own computers. /s. If you don't want your government to  have access to your data, then don't put it in the Cloud. But we all know no one is looking for a simple solution, just drama.

    Exactly, I have very little information on Apple or any other companies' servers (the cloud). I personally have all my iOS devices backed up my computer. I also maintain my own NAS which backups my computer and It also allow me to copy all my media, like pictures, movies and music directly from my iOS devices. The Government need to come arms with warrants with real probably cause to get access to my data, ops but i do not need to provide them my encryption key. At least I do not have to worry about our FBI going to some secret court to get permission to access my personal information on some cloud computer. 
  • Reply 8 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,391member
    maestro64 said:
    kent909 said:
    This is all assuming that life cannot exist without Cloud storage of our data. How did we ever make it to the 21st century without the ability to store our data somewhere other than on our own computers. /s. If you don't want your government to  have access to your data, then don't put it in the Cloud. But we all know no one is looking for a simple solution, just drama.

    Exactly, I have very little information on Apple or any other companies' servers (the cloud). I personally have all my iOS devices backed up my computer. I also maintain my own NAS which backups my computer and It also allow me to copy all my media, like pictures, movies and music directly from my iOS devices. The Government need to come arms with warrants with real probably cause to get access to my data, ops but i do not need to provide them my encryption key. At least I do not have to worry about our FBI going to some secret court to get permission to access my personal information on some cloud computer. 
    You're really worried you're important enough to warrant the attention of the FBI? If so I'd imagine you have larger root issues to deal with too.  
    edited February 28
  • Reply 9 of 21
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,447member
    TutTut said:
    Everyone interesed in the subject should take 13 minutes and listen to Rene Ritchie on this:

    Good find. 

    Funny he should mention it, but an old client of ours called to ask if the app we’d developed for him was running on severs based in the U.K.  The Civil Service also doesn’t want data stored on foreign servers, especially those based in the US. 
  • Reply 10 of 21
    kent909 said:
    This is all assuming that life cannot exist without Cloud storage of our data. How did we ever make it to the 21st century without the ability to store our data somewhere other than on our own computers. /s. If you don't want your government to  have access to your data, then don't put it in the Cloud. But we all know no one is looking for a simple solution, just drama.

    This is all assuming life cannot exist without aero planes, feature phones, satellites etc. How did we ever make it to the 20th century without aero planes, feature phones, satellites etc???? See, I can make an even more illogical argument, similar to your argument. That doesn't make it a valid argument.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,391member
    TutTut said:
    Everyone interesed in the subject should take 13 minutes and listen to Rene Ritchie on this:

    Except that Rene' brushes off mentioning that the "strong encryption protecting your iCloud data" can be unencrypted too, perfectly readable by whatever agency receives it which many users had no idea was possible. Originally Apple alone could do that, and would often fight even court orders to do so.
    ...But in China GCBD also now has the ability to un-encrypt whatever originally encrypted information is stored on it's servers, and on-demand with access to the keys that allow it courtesy of Apple. That data includes cloud-based device backups as well which can include even the content of your otherwise private iMessages in a readable format.

    ...and now that we're discussing iMessage, and with it known that China does not permit encryption technology in China without a way for the government to access it, wouldn't you say it's very likely that the unbreakable end-to-end user-to-user communication feature can also be broken at least in China? Otherwise the service would be banned just as the similarly encrypted Skype, WhatsApp and Telegram were.  That's the law. 

    Rene's video seems to have been done to please Apple PR rather than openly and honestly discuss why a user in China should be concerned, or why users in general world-wide might want to pay attention. He's making a valiant effort tho.

    Not one of his shining moments IMHO. 
    edited February 28 muthuk_vanalingamphilboogie
  • Reply 12 of 21
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,713moderator
    TutTut said:
    Everyone interesed in the subject should take 13 minutes and listen to Rene Ritchie on this:

    Excellent coverage of the issues and well reasoned.  The point about continuing to serve existing customers is a very good reason for Apple to accept China’s demands.  That and Apple’s history of engaging rather than taking their ball and going home.

    I’ll add that Apple has not yet invented  technology to puruse the future, ala Minority Report.  Should Apple refuse to store customer data within reach of the Chinese authorities because it may be used against some customers?  Do you stop selling rope in China because it ‘might’ be used to hang a dissident?
    edited February 28
  • Reply 13 of 21
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,713moderator

    gatorguy said:
    TutTut said:
    Everyone interesed in the subject should take 13 minutes and listen to Rene Ritchie on this:

    Except that Rene' brushes off mentioning that the "strong encryption protecting your iCloud data" can be unencrypted too, perfectly readable by whatever agency receives it. which many users had no idea was possible. Originally Apple alone could do that, and would often fight even court orders to do so.
    ...But in China GCBD also now has the ability to un-encrypt whatever originally encrypted information is stored on it's servers, and on-demand with access to the keys that allow it courtesy of Apple. That data includes cloud-based device backups as well which can include even the content of your otherwise private iMessages in a readable format.

    Rene's video seems to have been done to please Apple PR rather than openly and honestly discuss why a user in China should be concerned, or why users in general world-wide might want to pay attention. He's making a valiant effort tho.

    Not one of his shining moments IMHO. 
    Except that you not merely brush over, but completely
    neglect to mention the issue that it’s no longer legal in China to host the data of Chinese citizens (living in China) outside the country.  This is the very reason Apple is moving that data to Chinese servers.  So your comparison to what Apple used to do is not valid; you can now only compare what Apple is doing to what Apple is allowed to do but may not be doing. I’ll bet Apple took a look at this new stance on the part of the Chinese government, then took into consideration the best course within the new constraints imposed upon them, and implemented the best approach to serve its customers within those constraints.  And this is pretty much what Rene has covered in his video.  If you have evidence that Apple has not done something to protect its Chinese customers that it could be doing (not what it could do or did do prior to the constraints being imposed) then by all means make your case.  
    leavingthebigg
  • Reply 14 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,391member

    gatorguy said:
    TutTut said:
    Everyone interesed in the subject should take 13 minutes and listen to Rene Ritchie on this:

    Except that Rene' brushes off mentioning that the "strong encryption protecting your iCloud data" can be unencrypted too, perfectly readable by whatever agency receives it. which many users had no idea was possible. Originally Apple alone could do that, and would often fight even court orders to do so.
    ...But in China GCBD also now has the ability to un-encrypt whatever originally encrypted information is stored on it's servers, and on-demand with access to the keys that allow it courtesy of Apple. That data includes cloud-based device backups as well which can include even the content of your otherwise private iMessages in a readable format.

    Rene's video seems to have been done to please Apple PR rather than openly and honestly discuss why a user in China should be concerned, or why users in general world-wide might want to pay attention. He's making a valiant effort tho.

    Not one of his shining moments IMHO. 
    Except that you not merely brush over, but completely
    neglect to mention the issue that it’s no longer legal in China to host the data of Chinese citizens (living in China) outside the country.  This is the very reason Apple is moving that data to Chinese servers.  So your comparison to what Apple used to do is not valid; you can now only compare what Apple is doing to what Apple is allowed to do but may not be doing. I’ll bet Apple took a look at this new stance on the part of the Chinese government, then took into consideration the best course within the new constraints imposed upon them, and implemented the best approach to serve its customers within those constraints.  And this is pretty much what Rene has covered in his video.  If you have evidence that Apple has not done something to protect its Chinese customers that it could be doing (not what it could do or did do prior to the constraints being imposed) then by all means make your case.  
    Way to avoid commenting on what I wrote good sir. Of course Apple has to follow the law. That doesn't mean that current Chinese users should be told by Rene' "Hey no problem, it's all encrypted. No Worries!". Nor does it mean that worldwide users should not be aware that encryption does not necessarily mean what we think. What was encrypted in iCloud can be unencrypted and turned over to "authorities" without your knowledge. He forgot to mention it, and don't you think that's a kind'a important thing to know? 
    edited February 28 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 21
    NemWanNemWan Posts: 110member
    markbyrn said:
    I don't support Chinese protectionist policies but if one is concerned about "exposing customers to the authoritarian Chinese government", have you forgot that the majority of iPhones are made in China?  
    With Apple's control of design I don't think China could alter the functionality of Apple products in a way that Apple couldn't detect in stateside analysis of production samples.
  • Reply 16 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,391member
    TutTut said:
    Everyone interesed in the subject should take 13 minutes and listen to Rene Ritchie on this:

    Excellent coverage of the issues and well reasoned.  
    IMHO NO... It's terrible coverage of the issue, more a fluff PR piece than anything. Rene' is in effect using a broom to sweep it under the carpet with "It's all encrypted by Apple's world-class software anyway and cannot be seen even by Apple. Nothing here, move along folks" which you and I both know to be wrong, even if Rene's piece succeeds in misleading casual users, some of them here, who may not know any better. Please make your case tho if you don't agree with what I just wrote. That's why we have a forum. I'd love to hear your explanation why iMessage is still allowed in China despite the similarly encrypted WhatsApp, Telegram and now Skype banned from the country, because unless the Chinese have a key to unlock it's the law they cannot be used there.
    edited February 28 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 17 of 21
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,930member
    markbyrn said:
    I don't support Chinese protectionist policies but if one is concerned about "exposing customers to the authoritarian Chinese government", have you forgot that the majority of iPhones are made in China?  
    Once again, a clueless statement. Assembly is NOT the same as make.
  • Reply 18 of 21
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,930member
    If an American moved to China to live but retained his US iCloud account, will he be forced to transfer his to China iCloud?
    edited February 28 Chuckit
  • Reply 19 of 21
    Apple in cahoots with google.  China or not Google is known for selling everything it gets his hand on. Apple pridesitself on personal privacy. How’s that work?  Apple gave China on the personal protection so Chinese cannot get out without censorship.   Striking. (Who’s on first?)
  • Reply 20 of 21
    ChuckitChuckit Posts: 14member
    fallenjt said:
    markbyrn said:
    I don't support Chinese protectionist policies but if one is concerned about "exposing customers to the authoritarian Chinese government", have you forgot that the majority of iPhones are made in China?  
    Once again, a clueless statement. Assembly is NOT the same as make.
    fallenjt said:
    markbyrn said:
    I don't support Chinese protectionist policies but if one is concerned about "exposing customers to the authoritarian Chinese government", have you forgot that the majority of iPhones are made in China?  
    Once again, a clueless statement. Assembly is NOT the same as make.

    Lets end all this Chinese imports child labor $2 a day and Cook stands on his pompous  pulpit. 

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