Apple Bends a Knee to Keep Chinese Business

  • Apple Bends a Knee to Keep Chinese Business

Apple Bends a Knee to Keep Chinese Business

As Reuters notes, however, once the iCloud keys are moved to Chinese servers, Chinese authorities will no longer have to go through the US court system to obtain data on iOS users.

Reuters/Yuya ShinoApple faces criticisms from human rights activists as they announce to hand over the iCloud keys of China users to China authorities.

The company also says that the move does not mean that the Chinese government has any sort of "backdoor" to user data.

Human rights advocates are concerned that China will be able to spot and monitor dissidents easier.

It is the first time the tech giant decides to store the keys on a foreign server, which means that Chinese law enforcement agencies will no longer have to tap the US legal system when seeking data on Chinese users of Apple's iCloud service. In a statement, Apple said it "had to comply with recently introduced Chinese laws that require cloud services offered to Chinese citizens be operated by Chinese companies and that the data be stored in China".

Apple has already complied with requests for iCloud data in the U.S. You might remember Apple's fight with the Federal Bureau of Investigation over the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone 5c.

And even though Chinese iPhones will retain the security features that can make it all but impossible for anyone, even Apple, to get access to the phone itself, that will not apply to the iCloud accounts.

Nevertheless, this is still a big change as iCloud encryption keys used to be stored in Apple data centres in the United States, where data laws are quite a bit different.

However, Apple clarified that they would be holding the encryption keys of the cloud. This is useful if you forget your password for instance as Apple always has a way to recover data for you.

The default settings on the iPhone will automatically create an iCloud back-up when a phone is activated. That means iMessages that haven't been deleted are also stored on Apple's iCloud servers in a form that could potentially be accessed by authorities. But it's not available just yet.

Despite Cook's sunny outlook, USA lawmakers have criticized Apple for bending to Chinese demands. Apple probably hopes that users with sensitive data disabled iCloud backups and iCloud data before the switch. But Chinese customers will notice some differences from the start: their iCloud accounts will now be co-branded with the name of the local partner, a first for Apple. According to Reuters, Apple said that they tried to advocate "against iCloud being subject to these laws", but were "ultimately unsuccessful".