Chinese iCloud customers have been notified that Apple will transfer operations of its cloud storage service to the local firm Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data (GCBD) starting next month. Apple announced the partnership with GCBD last year and claims the new iCloud operations will help the company comply with Chinese regulations. As of February 28, Apple will start the transfer of Chinese iCloud data to its new data center in Guizhou, where it will be managed by GCBD.
This means that the physical location of Chinese iCloud customers’ data will change, but customers shouldn’t see any differences on their end of their iCloud accounts. In Apple’s message sent to mainland Chinese customers, the company says the new operations setup will “enable us to continue improving the speed and reliability of iCloud and to comply with Chinese regulations.” Customers are urged to consider the new terms and conditions of iCloud operated by GCBD, and customers who are not comfortable with GCBD partnership can terminate their accounts.
While the new agreement hands off local iCloud operations to GCBD, both the Chinese firm and Apple have access to data stored in Chinese iCloud accounts. In a statement provided to 9to5Mac, Apple reassures customers that their data is still just as safe and private as it was before the partnership. “Apple has strong data privacy and security protections in place and no backdoors will be created into any of our systems,” the statement says.
Chinese customers may be concerned about the safety of their photos, documents, and other iCloud data because GCBD is owned by the Guizhou provincial government. Apple’s partnership with GCBD is another means for China’s government to control data accessible within its territory.
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. Last year, Chinese internet users became incensed when Apple removed many VPN apps from its App Store, citing a new rule that all VPN services had to be approved by the Chinese government. VPNs allow Chinese citizens to browse the Internet freely, without the constraints of its Great Firewall.
Chinese Apple Watch Series 3 users also ran into issues when the government shut down LTE service to the new wearable nearly one month after it became available. Series 3 Watches use eSims installed in the device to access LTE data. However, the Chinese government doesn’t have a system in place to regulate eSIM use in the country, so it blocked LTE access from those devices citing “security concerns.” Apple’s support page now states that cellular service for Series 3 Watches will arrive in select Chinese cities sometime in 2018, a timeframe that appears to have been pushed back from the original promise of a late-2017 roll-out.