The Chinese government is now in possession of the iCloud data of China based users of Apple.
A division of the state-owned firm, China Telecom is now ion charge of managing Chinese users’ emails, pictures and text messages.
This has raised concerns among privacy advocates who have issued warnings about the vulnerability of state surveillance on the user data.
According to Apple, this decision to allow storage of user data locally was taken to conform to demands by Chinese authorities.
The handling of iCloud services for users in mainland China would be done in partnership with local Chinese firm, Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Development [GCBD], Apple had announced in 2017. Later this February, an announcement of the shifting of iCloud data of Chinese users to a new data centre in Guizhou province was made.
Apple said that the move was necessary so in order for the company to adhere to the local laws on cybersecurity. In a statement to Reuters, Apple said: “While we advocated against iCloud being subject to these laws, we were ultimately unsuccessful.”
However, now concerns are being raised following a new arrangement between the Chinese state-owned company, China Telecom and the operator of Apple’s Chinese iCloud service.
An agreement to store data of iCloud China has been struck between GCBD and Tianyi Cloud division of China Telecom, Apple has confirmed to the BBC.
This means that the state-owned service now handles all of the data of iCloud users in China which includes emails and photos. This has led privacy proponents to raise concerns that this arrangement will allow the Chinese government to easily gain access to personal information pf the users.
Apple’s Chinese users are being put at risk by the new agreement with China Telecom, said Joshua Rosenzweig, deputy regional director of research at Amnesty International’s office in Hong Kong.
“This move really undermines Apple’s claim that it takes its customers’ privacy seriously. Apple shouldn’t let its thirst for profits put its Chinese users at risk,” he said.
“Apple famously launched its Mac line with a nod to Orwell and 1984. Now it looks like when it comes to privacy rights, Apple thinks some users are more equal than others.
“We wrote to Apple for information on how it plans to protect its customers’ rights against abusive government requests for data. The company’s silence in response is deeply concerning.”
Apple was targeted in a campaign by Amnesty International in March in which the organization alleged that Apple had betrayed “millions of Chinese iCloud users” as the company had made the personal information of the users easily accessible for state surveillance by the the agreement with the local company to handle China iCloud service.
(Adapted from BBC.com)