Chinese Cyber Security Laws Force Apple to Build Data Center in China


Apple Inc. will soon be storing cloud data of its Chinese customers with a Chinese government-owned company in accordance with the latest cyber security laws of China. The southern province of Guizhou will become the home to Apple’s first Chinese data center which will store the data for its customers of the iCloud service. The operations in this center will be governed by a company owned by the Guizhou provincial government belonging to China whose chairman is a former government official.

Complying with the latest cyber security laws of China mean Apple Inc., will relinquish some control over its Chinese data. Under the agreement, it is certain that Apple gains control over the encryption keys at the data center but what remains unclear is whether it would have access to any of the data being stored in the data center which is to be overseen by the Guizhou partner. In addition, Apple wouldn’t be able to transfer data from Chinese customers to its US servers in compliance with China’s new cross-border data guidelines.

This announcement is a further improvement over the previous move made by Apple in 2014 when it started storing some data at facilities owned by the state-owned China Telecom after China expressed concerns over the cyber security of its customers. Apple suggests the new data center being built should improve the speed and reliability for customers in China.

For some time, Apple has been facing strong resistance from China regarding the services it has to offer. Only last year, its online book and movie services were shut down by authorities, who refrained from giving any specific reasons for imposing such a restriction. Moreover, China has been pressurizing other foreign cloud-service providers to comply with its rules which require them to partner with local firms.

This will be the first time Apple’s iCloud will be co-branded when it joins hands with its Chinese partner, whose full name is Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data Industry Development Co. The transition is expected to happen over the next few years during which this data project costing $1 billion will be developed.

Apple has always proclaimed its encryption can’t be cracked, not even by Apple itself, and therefore is considered one of the strongest defenders of user privacy among major U.S. Tech companies. Apple was also in the news for famously refusing the FBI’s demand for unlocking an iPhone owned by a gunman in 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino.

Describing what is being called as Guizhou on the Cloud, chairman Fu Yu has written that the company aims to “provide a platform for aggregation and sharing of government data”. The Chinese data center is expected to contain photos, documents, messages, apps, and videos uploaded by Apple users throughout the mainland, the company said on Wednesday.

Mr. Fu, the chairman couldn’t be reached for comment. But it is being suggested that the company wishes to have more international partners, has made Apple its first. Only time will tell whether this move to have a separate data center for China turns out to be good or bad for Chinese cyber security.

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