Apple has begun keeping some of its Chinese users' personal data in China, Reuters revealed yesterday. That's significant because it is the first tech company to store information in the notoriously snoop-happy country, thus raising concerns that the data might be looked at by authorities.
Apple is spinning the move as good news for users of its iCloud service, because it says it will help increase the speed and reliability of it. The rationale is that the closer customers are to the data centres, it will make it faster for them to access their stuff.
Perhaps worrying to some, the data will be stored on China Telecom, a state-controlled company. Apple officials told the Wall Street Journal that its data will be encrypted, so the company can't see anything.
Apple released a statement, saying:
"Apple takes user security and privacy very seriously. We have added China Telecom to our list of data center providers to increase bandwidth and improve performance for our customers in mainland China."
But is that good enough? Not really, according to Jeremy Goldkorn, a director at Danwei.com, a company that monitors Chinese internet.
"If they're making out that the data is protected and secure that's a little disingenuous because if they want to operate a business here, that would have to comply with demands from the authorities," he told Reuters. "On the other hand if they don't store Chinese user data on a Chinese server they're basically risking a crackdown from the authorities."
We'll have to see how this experiment goes to see if other companies, like Google, who don't use Chinese data storage centres because of privacy concerns, will want to change their minds. [Reuters]
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