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Censorship, Surveillance and Profits: A Hard Bargain for Apple in China

Monday May 17, 2021. 10:46 PM , from Slashdot/Apple
Apple has compromised on data security to placate Chinese authorities, the New York Times reported Monday, citing internal company documents and interviews with current and former Apple employees and security experts. An excerpt from the story: At the data center in Guiyang, which Apple hoped would be completed by next month, and another in the Inner Mongolia region, Apple has largely ceded control to the Chinese government. Chinese state employees physically manage the computers. Apple abandoned the encryption technology it used elsewhere after China would not allow it. And the digital keys that unlock information on those computers are stored in the data centers they're meant to secure.

In China, Apple has ceded legal ownership of its customers' data to Guizhou-Cloud Big Data, or GCBD, a company owned by the government of Guizhou Province, whose capital is Guiyang. Apple recently required its Chinese customers to accept new iCloud terms and conditions that list GCBD as the service provider and Apple as 'an additional party.' Apple told customers the change was to 'improve iCloud services in China mainland and comply with Chinese regulations.'

The terms and conditions included a new provision that does not appear in other countries: 'Apple and GCBD will have access to all data that you store on this service' and can share that data 'between each other under applicable law.' Under the new setup, Chinese authorities ask GCBD -- not Apple -- for Apple customers' data, Apple said. Apple believes that gives it a legal shield from American law, according to a person who helped create the arrangement. GCBD declined to answer questions about its Apple partnership. Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins, commented on Times' story: 'Apple asked a lot of people to back them against the FBI in 2015. They used every tool in the legal arsenal to prevent the US from gaining access to their phones. Do they think anyone is going to give them the benefit of the doubt now?'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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