China has a bad reputation when it comes to data storage, both in privacy and censorship. The country is very keen that businesses who operate in their country store related data within the borders for reasons of control. It’s a stance that, quite rightly, many corporations refuse to comply with.
Google is completely against the censorship that China wishes to impose, publically moving all their servers out of China and into Hong Kong back in 2010. The search engine giant continues to have a long-standing disagreement with the Chinese government, with their services being disrupted during the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Tiananmen Square protests.
Microsoft also refuses to locate any data centres in China, with their cloud service OneDrive suffering problems within the country since June.
Apple, however, are now breaking what The Telegraph are calling “the unofficial policy of Silicon Valley”. The technology firm are now keeping the personal data of some of their Chinese consumers on servers in China. It’s the first time they’ve ever done so and concerns in the public and press were raised immediately.
China is becoming a highly relevant market for many companies, especially Apple. Reuters report that the sales of the iPhone rose by nearly 50 percent in the three months prior to June.
Apple released a statement claiming that they take user security and privacy very seriously. The move has apparently been made in order to improve the reliability and speed of their iCloud services in the Chinese market. Generally, the closer a user is to a data centre then the quicker it’ll be to retrieve information from it.
The data is being stored with China Telecom, the third largest wireless provider within the country. However, Apple has said that the data is encrypted and that China Telecom doesn’t have a way to access the content. Reuters’s attempt for a comment from China Telecom was denied.
The criticism of Apple storing data in China is that they are legally required to comply with government demands now that the data is stored in the country. Storing the data outside of China would mean that they risk having their services block by the Chinese government; that’s the method that Google and Microsoft seem to prefer.
Although data stored within the United States, for example, is also subject to government compliance, their outlook and laws, especially on aspects such as censorship, are not as strong as China.
“China doesn't want any digital service offered to Chinese people to be hosted offshore,” explained Jeremy Goldkorn, director of a research firm that specialises in Chinese media, internet and consumers, in a conversation with Reuters. “I suppose it was inevitable that Apple had to comply if they were using foreign servers for Chinese user data.”
Apple has frequently come under fire in the Chinese media. The iPhone was claimed to be a security threat due to the phone’s ability to track and date user locations, which Apple denied. However, the Chinese state media claim that the firm hand over user data to the American intelligence agencies.
Apple Starts Storing Personal Data in China
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