To comply with China’s laws, Apple unveiled a plan to move sensitive iCloud data on Chinese users to China-based servers. Human rights advocates are concerned that the move would enable the Chinese government to further infringe the privacy of its netizens.
Until now, Apple stored a critical component of Chinese iCloud accounts, i.e. the keys needed to unlock the accounts, on U.S.-based servers. So, any government that sought access to these accounts had to get the approval of a U.S. court first.
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 U.S. legal system when seeking data on Chinese users of Apple’s iCloud service.
Human rights advocates are concerned that China will be able to spot and monitor dissidents easier. Several years ago, when Yahoo handed over this type of data to Chinese authorities two democracy activists were arrested and jailed.
Chinese Human Rights Activists Outraged
Jing Zhao who fights for human rights in China and owns some Apple stock too criticized the company’s decision to hand over the iCloud data to Chinese authorities on a silver platter.
Apple replied that it had to follow China’s laws which require companies that offer cloud services to the local population to use local servers to store the data. Apple has insisted that the move was not politically motivated. It just has to comply with each country’s laws.
The iPhone maker unveiled that it had advocated against such requirements in the case of cloud services, but to no avail. So, the company was forced to either move the data to Chinese servers or discontinue the service in China, which would have resulted in a bad user experience.
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