Apple: Chinese firm to operate China iCloud accounts

EnlargeAndrew Cunningham

EnlargeAndrew Cunningham

The American tech giant Apple announced this week that it will transfer its iCloud operations in China to its Chinese partner, Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Co, . Customers living in mainland China who did not want to use iCloud operated by GCBD were given the option to terminate their account.

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

In July 2017, Apple removed at least 60 Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers from its China app store after a request from the Chinese government.

They include a clause that both Apple and the Chinese firm will have access to all data stored on iCloud.

Apple made the move to comply with the country's latest regulations on cloud services.

Apple said the "partnership" with GCBD would allow it to "improve the speed and reliability of our iCloud services products while also complying with newly passed regulations that cloud services be operated by Chinese companies".

The company also told the newspaper that it would notify the Chinese mainland users about the upcoming changes for the next seven weeks starting on Wednesday.

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They apply to anyone with iCloud accounts registered in mainland China, according to Apple.

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

While it's not guaranteed, the article states that users may be able to get around the transition by signing out of all devices, then switching their phone and iCloud settings to the U.S. The site claims these accounts "will (seemingly) not be part of the migration".

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

However, the new terms have raised privacy and surveillance concerns, with some saying that the Chinese government might now have the opportunity to monitor Apple customers.

The move comes after the company was criticised by some a year ago for removing Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) from its App Store in mainland China - software that allowed users to get round government restrictions on internet access.

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

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