Apple has started to store some Chinese users' personal data on servers in China owned by China Telecom, Reuters reported on Friday.
Apple told Reuters in a statement that China Telecom, the country's third-largest wireless carrier, has been added to the company's "list of data center providers." Apple said the decision was made to improve its iCloud service, which lets users store and access photos, music, and other data from multiple devices. With data stored closer to the iCloud users, it can be delivered more quickly and reliably, Apple told Reuters.
CNET has contacted Apple for comment on the report. We will update this story when we have more information.
Apple's decision to store data in China is at odds with some other tech companies', most notably Google, refusals to store data in China over censorship and privacy concerns. Google had a public spat with China in 2010 over censoring search results that eventually led to the Internet giant moving its servers to Hong Kong.
China continues to be an epicenter of controversy over user data. China has been charged with hacking foreign governments and corporate servers to steal information. The country is also notorious for wanting user data stored in its borders. The Chinese government claims it's part of its rules and regulations, but critics have said it gives China easy access to people's personal information.
For its part, Apple has thrown cold water on any indication that storing data on China Telecom's servers will invade the privacy of its users. Apple said the data is heavily encrypted and not accessible by China Telecom or any other party, according to Reuters. An unidentified source told Reuters that Apple has stored the encryption keys for that data offshore.
It's also worth noting the physical location where data is stored doesn't necessarily protect it from prying governments. For example, a US federal judge last month ordered Microsoft to hand over a customer's email-account data being stored in Dublin, Ireland. So, while Apple has started storing data in China, it may not mean user data is more accessible.