Chinese Users' iCloud Data Now Stored on State-Owned China Telecom Servers

Donna Miller
July 21, 2018

One of those key services is iCloud storage, and the Chinese government informed Apple earlier this year that in order to sell the service in China the user content would have to be hosted by Chinese companies.

The emails, pictures and text messages of users in China are now being managed by a division of the state-owned firm, China Telecom.

According to a new report from TechCrunch, China Telecom, a state-owned carrier in China, is now in control of storing Chinese users' iCloud data. One of the key arguments for tariffs on Chinese goods by the Trump administration is a belief that the Chinese government is actively working through Chinese companies to steal intellectual property from USA companies.

Chinese state-run media is heralding the move as a win for consumers, but Chinese citizens have been extremely condemnatory of the decision. In February this year, it was announced iCloud data of users in China would move to a new data centre in Guizhou province.

When Apple moved iCloud data for Chinese customers over to Apple partner Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry earlier this year, a lot of privacy advocates were anxious about the implications. While we advocated against iCloud being subject to these laws, we were ultimately unsuccessful.

Furthermore, Apple tried to calm fears by pointing out that while the data is stored with a China-based company, the company still controlled the encryption keys to each account.

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The investigation can take as long as nine months, after which Ross can recommend steps for the president to take. A second investigation, focused on the threat to security posed by auto imports, is ongoing.

Apple is yet to allow users to individually disable the storing of iMessages.

Apple previously worked with China Telecom to store customer data on local servers in 2014, which the company said was arranged to improve the speed and reliability of service. Our choice was to offer iCloud under the new laws or discontinue offering the service.

In March, Amnesty International launched a campaign targeting Apple over its "betrayal of millions of Chinese iCloud users", saying the company had made personal data vulnerable by handing over its China iCloud service to a local company. They reiterated that no special deal was made to provide access to the Chinese government.

However, human rights advocates criticised Apple's February move to give operational power to Guizhou-Cloud Big Data, the company who passed the job onto China Telecom. Now with the iCloud info in state-owned hands, China's government will already have the access to users' data.

So, it may finally be time for concerned Chinese citizens to stop using Apple iCloud.

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