Apple Moves to China
For the first time ever, Apple has decided to store user data on servers located in China. Companies like Google (and previously Apple) have long stayed away from storing anything in China due to security and censorship concerns.
So, why has Apple decided to break this long-standing belief? Apple wants to improve its iCloud service, and that means storing data closer to users.
The Choice Was Made
The information that Apple will be storing will be stored with China Telecom, which is the country’s third largest wireless carrier. Apple chose China Telecom from a list of carriers that the company has been considering for some time, according to Apple representatives. Based on information released by Reuters this morning, Apple will be storing encryption keys offshore, and that data will not be accessible by China Telecom in any way.
Even though Apple has told press that the company has created encryption codes that even Apple can’t crack (for services such as iMessage), some are more than skeptical that Apple will be able to keep data from government officials in China were this information to be requested. Seemingly, the company feels comfortable enough to go ahead and store the data despite concerns from other parties.
The other glaringly obvious problem here is, though, that Apple doesn’t have much of a choice when it comes to storing data in China. The rule are clear enough – if Apple doesn’t store Chinese user data in China, the government will simply crackdown on the company, and that means that Apple will get the boot. So, Apple has made a choice, and it might be a safe one, and it might not be, but it’s the only choice that Apple can make at the moment.
What China Can Do
Can China actually demand that Apple give up user details? After a big of digging, it seems clear that the government in China has the right to request user information much as the U.S. Government does, so Apple will have to give up these details – but, bear in mind that Apple has also stated that the company offers encryption that even Apple can’t crack.
It will be interesting to see whether or not Apple gets away with storing data without incident on Chinese servers. Back in 2010, Google pulled all of its data from Chinese servers citing major problems with the Chinese Government.
Why Apple would be any different has yet to be seen, but the company stands behind its statement that information will be secure. Apple has had previous brushes with the Chinese Government too. The Government in China has accused Apple of tracking user whereabouts with the iPhone, and that particular smartphone has been declared a threat in parts of China.
In some ways, Apple had no real choice in this matter, and storing certain details offshore might be one way to enter China without really becoming prey to the government. Then again, that plan might not work out so well – only time will tell.