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Apple risks privacy with Chinese Cloud deal

Last summer, Apple capitulated to Chinese legislation that required companies doing business in China to use a Chinese company to store all data. Apple contracted with Guizhou-Cloud Big Data, "a state-owned company with Communist Party connections, to build Apple’s first data-storage center in China. Beginning Feb. 28, the iCloud content of Apple ID users registered in China will be sent to and managed by Guizhou-Cloud Big Data."


That would mean that individual iCloud users--like me and many friends, family, colleagues and students--would be clicking "I agree" to a contract with a Chinese-controlled Big Data company.   Maybe we've already agreed. I wonder how much information might get "lost in translation" in a storage facility on the Chinese mainland--or misunderstood, misused, sold or hacked.  Even American companies who store their cloud data with IBM, Amazon, Gartner or Dropbox might have employees who have some data on their Apple devices getting automatically backed up to the iCloud every night. 


In addition, Apple has removed apps from its phones sold in China, to enable prior censorship required by the government. Chen Guancheng,a social rights activist and author of the essay linked below, feels that Apple, Inc. has an ethical responsibility to stand up to the Chinese dictatorship. He also feels that other tech companies, instead of jumping through hoops to get a foothold in Chinese markets, need to take a stand to stay true to their own mission statements.

"Those companies, institutions and organizations that play an outsize role in society should not shirk their responsibility to uphold social justice. The Chinese people have been fighting for human rights for decades, including the rights to privacy, freedom of speech and democracy. Many have lost their lives doing so. Instead of aiding dictatorships and following a misguided path to the future, Apple should return to its core values and protect the rights of its users at home and abroad."


Source: "Apple can't resist playing by China's rules," by Chen Guancheng, New York Times, January 23, 2018.  [video headline from CBS Morning news]

Follow up

  • What do you store on iCloud--or any cloud storage app for that matter? How to you securely protect it? Do you have any concerns about Apple's new arrangements for data storage?
  • Comment on the privacy policies and storage facilities of other cloud storage companies (such as those mentioned above, or others). 
  • Comment on the philosophical statement by Chen Guancheng that is quoted above.