Apple on Wednesday announced that its mainland Chinese iCloud services will be operated by Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data (GCBD) which is owned by the Guizhou government in southern China. GCBD will be operating in Apple's $1 billion data center to be built in the southwest province.
This move also relocates Chinese customers' iCloud data from the US to China. Per a clause in the terms and conditions, Apple and GCBD "will have access to all data that you store on this service, including the right to share, exchange and disclose all user data, including content, to and between each other under applicable law."
China passed a controversial cybersecurity law last July that required companies that operated data centers in China to store all data in the country. Apple is simply doing this to comply with the regulation despite harsh criticism that this is just a form of censorship and privacy violations. The Chinese government claims the new cybersecurity regulation helps deter terrorism and crime.
For Apple's part, they've said that users will have an opportunity to determine if they want their data to be stored on Chinese servers. Objectors will have to deactivate their iCloud account.
"Because of our commitment to transparency, there will be a series of customer communications over the course of the next seven weeks to make sure customers are well informed of the coming changes," Apple said.
Despite the prospect of "Big Brother" having unlimited access to Chinese iCloud content, Apple has tried to reassure Chinese users that their data will be thoroughly protected. "Apple has strong data privacy and security protections in place and no backdoors will be created into any of our systems."
Apple is not the only American tech company to comply with China's cybersecurity laws. Microsoft and Amazon also have data centers in China which will have to be in compliance as well. Amazon has already struck deals with Chinese firms to operate its AWS platform within the country.
GCBD will formally take over Chinese iCloud operations next month.