Apple to store Chinese iCloud accounts and keep cryptography keys in China starting February 28th

Apple to store Chinese iCloud accounts and keep cryptography keys in China starting February 28th
A local law in China is forcing Apple to host Chinese users' iCloud accounts in a data center inside China starting on February 28th. Besides keeping these accounts domestically in China, Apple will also be storing in the country the cryptographic keys needed to unlock them. Previously, both the accounts and the keys were held in the U.S., which meant that Chinese authorities needing to unlock a Chinese iCloud account had to go through the U.S. legal system.

Once these accounts and the keys start to be held in China on February 28th, the Chinese government and law enforcement will be able to go through their own courts and legal system when seeking to obtain information stored in iCloud. That will allow them more access than previously received through the U.S. courts. To comply with China's laws that force Apple to host iCloud data generated in China, and the keys that unlock the accounts, the company opened a data center in the country through a joint-venture with state-owned firm Guizhou - Cloud Big Data Industry Co Ltd. The latter has ties to China's government and Communist Party.

Apple says that agreeing to the joint venture doesn't mean that China will have a backdoor into user's data. The encryption keys will be held by Apple even though Chinese user's iCloud accounts will include the name of Apple's partner in the country. But those living in China need to beware. In the country, police can issue their own warrants and do not need the court to issue them. Any Chinese authority with a legal order will be able to force Apple to turn over information stored in an iCloud account beginning at the end of this month.

Apple says that 99.9% of iCloud users in the country have signed a revised Terms of Service page, allowing the new data center to take over their accounts. Only those who select China as their country when setting up an Apple device are affected. Those who select Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan are not covered by the law.

Apple says that from the middle of 2013 to the middle of 2017, it received 176 requests from Chinese authorities for iCloud account information stored in the U.S. Apple turned over none of the requested info. That compares to requests for data from U.S. customers' iCloud accounts. In those situations, Apple has turned over information on 2,366 out of 8,475 government requests.

source: Reuters
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