Apple to Transfer Chinese iCloud Operation to a Chinese State-Owned Company

Chinese company will operate local Apple iCloud accounts starting February

New York-listed Alibaba Group Holding, which owns the South China Morning Post, signed a framework agreement with the Guizhou provincial government in 2014 to set up an industrial base for its cloud computing business and big data operations.

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

"Because of our commitment to transparency, 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", Apple said. In an email sent to mainland Chinese customers, Apple says that this move allows "us to continue improving the speed and reliability of iCloud and to comply with Chinese regulations".

This move also relocates Chinese customers' iCloud data from the United States to China.

The Chinese government changed the law previous year, requiring Apple and other companies offering cloud storage to use local companies to store the data. Essentially, it appears that, if your Apple ID was created originally in China, or if you've spent some time in China and therefore changed your country or region during the stay, there's a chance your data could be migrated - even if you're not in China right now.

As it works to comply with the rules, Apple is reassuring users in mainland China that even though their data is being stored on Chinese servers, it will be protected.

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Apple's Tim Cook spoke at a technology conference in China last month (click on photo above to enlarge).

The benign interpretation of this would be that GCBD only has access to the encrypted data, which it needs in order to operate the servers, and would have no more access to the data than the US government.

Non-Chinese users whose iCloud accounts are registered in mainland China but who aren't living in the country have another option.

Apple insists the new terms will not impact user privacy. The company warned users that the terms and conditions of using iCloud in China will change, and has made it possible for them to delete their accounts instead of going through with the hand over.

Apple has been trying to play nicely with China for a while now, but the back-and-forth between the tech giant and the local government has often resulted in frustrations for Chinese Apple customers.

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