There are over 130 million iPhone users in China, and their data is now being stored by a Chinese government-run company.
China Telecom, a state-owned carrier in China, is now in control of storing Chinese users' iCloud data, it announced on Tuesday. It takes this duty from Guizhou-Cloud Big Data, who controversially gained operation control over Apple's iCloud business in February.
The move, which involves pictures, texts, notes and calendar data being stored by a state-owned business, was praised by state media. "No telecom operator will manage and monitor user data, and Apple needs Chinese local operators to provide network services," Xiang Ligang, identified as an "industry expert," told the state-run Global Times.
Chinese consumers are being sold on faster speeds and better connectivity, but this was greeted with suspicion by users on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter. "They're going to steal my privacy," one user wrote, while another said "Big brother said, privacy in exchange for efficiency and safety."
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.
"By handing over its China iCloud service to a local company without sufficient safeguards, the Chinese authorities now have potentially unfettered access to all Apple's Chinese customers' iCloud data," said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director at Amnesty International, in a statement back in February.
In February, Apple started storing encryption keys for iCloud data in China with a third-party company, Guizhou Cloud Big Data, in response to new legal requirements. The decision wasn't made lightly, and Apple was very clear about the change, saying in a statement:
"China recently enacted laws requiring that cloud services offered to their citizens be operated by Chinese companies and that Chinese customers' data be stored in the country. While we advocated against iCloud being subject to these laws, we were ultimately unsuccessful. Our choice was to offer iCloud under the new laws or discontinue offering the service. We elected to continue offering iCloud as we felt that discontinuing the service would result in a bad user experience and less data security and privacy for our Chinese customers," Apple said.
It comes months after ZTE, a Chinese telecom company and phone maker, was . Stemming out of ZTE selling equipment with US technology to Iran and Korea, the company was banned from dealing with US companies, including chipmaker Qualcomm, for seven years. The ban was ultimately lifted, though ZTE was fined $1 billion.
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