In following China’s iCloud law, has Apple betrayed itself?Apple is moving iCloud data and encryption keys to a local provider in China, risking its privacy-protecting credentials rather than its third-largest market By NICOLE KOBIE
Saturday 3 March 20https://hendersonvilleonline.com8GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty ImagesApple’s move to store user iCloud data locally in China was inevitable; it’s merely following the law. But if the powerful tech leaders of Silicon Valley can’t stand up for customers rights in China, who can?Apple yesterday shifted its Chinese iCloud storage to a local company, for the first time hosting the encryption keys for that data in China rather than the US. The move isn’t a surprise, as it not only follows new laws that force foreign companies to hold data locally, but comes a month after Apple warned users of the move.
The server setup raises concerns as the Chinese government needs no longer go through the US legal system to access iCloud data, but can instead rely on local courts. Apple has stressed it will only comply with valid legal requests to data and refuse all bulk requests, and so far has turned down all https://hendersonvilleonline.com76 requests for data from the Chinese government between 20https://hendersonvilleonline.com3 and last year, when the new laws landed. Such requests will continue to be tracked in its transparency reports.”The simple fact is that once the encryption keys are stored on Chinese servers, they will be easier for Chinese authorities to access — with or without legal requests,” says Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China, a US-based NGO. “Since Apple has declared its willingness to ‘comply with Chinese law,’ its reassurance that it, not its Chinese partner, would control the encryption keys is not exactly reassuring. In addition, Chinese authorities could bypass Apple to address their requests directly to Apple’s Chinese partner, a state-owned enterprise that, of course, would have to cooperate with Chinese authorities.”READ NEXT
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By PHOEBE BRAITHWAITESuch data laws aren’t limited to China, of course. Pointing to the Supreme Court battle between US authorities and Microsoft, Jonathan Brookfield, professor in international business at Tufts University, notes that “government desire for information is not limited to the PRC”. EU law also requires citizens’ data be held locally — but that’s with the aim of protecting users from other countries’ dodgy privacy law, not to make it easier for EU states to access it.With Apple’s decent track record in privacy protection — battling the FBI in court over unlocking the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, for example, as well as its encryption by default and it’s assertions that it won’t sell your data on to advertisers — it’ll come as no surprise that the company did put up a fight. “While we advocated against iCloud being subject to these laws, we were ultimately unsuccessful,” it said in a statement sent to Reuters.
Apple could have simply closed iCloud in the country – annoying for users, but likely not enough to put them off buying iPhones and iPads. Chinese iCloud users are at least being warned of the change, with no data transferred until they acknowledge a popup message, giving those who want to keep their data off the Chinese-run servers a chance to move their files first.It’s not the first time Apple has given in. Last year, Apple caved to Chinese government demands to pull hundreds of VPNs from the local version of its App Store. That happened despite US senators writing to Apple, pressuring it to “push back” against “Chinese suppression of free expression”, according to the Financial Times. Apple’s VP for public policy, Cynthia Hogan, said at the time Apple “made its views on VPN apps clear to the Chinese government”. That’s twice Apple’s fought not to be forced to give in on digital rights, and twice it’s lost to the Chinese government.At least it tried. Back in 2005, Yahoo infamously passed along records of its users to Chinese authorities, leading to the arrests of local dissidents and journalists. The company was sued, and eventually settled by setting up a $https://hendersonvilleonline.com7 million fund to help jailed activists.Other Silicon Valley companies have stayed out of the country, but are showing signs of starting to crack, too. Google pulled most of its services from China in 20https://hendersonvilleonline.com0 after apparent government cyberattacks targeted activists on Gmail — but it’s now inching back into the country, setting up a third local office and sending its CEO to conferences there, despite its search tool remaining blocked. Facebook has long been banned in China, but after Mark Zuckerberg made a series of visits to the country, analysts are predicting the social network will finally launch in the country.
Why is Silicon Valley going soft on China just as the country toughens its digital controls? It’s simply too sweet of a market to pass up — and if Silicon Valley doesn’t get it