Apple hands Chinese iCloud to Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry

Doing business in China means keeping everything in Chinese hands behind the great firewall

Apple has announced it will hand over iCloud operations in China to government-owned local partner Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry (GBCD) on February 28.

Apple has made the move to comply with Chinese government policy, that demands domestic operators own foreign services' data centres so that data on Chinese citizens is stored within the country.

Cupertino announced the billion-dollar joint data centre last July. As we noted at the time, regulations introduced in June 2016 also prevent transfer of sensitive economic, scientific or technological overseas.

At the time, Apple promised users there would be no backdoors in the Chinese iCloud, in line with its global policy.

In an FAQ posted January 10, 2018, Apple says GCBD will take over operation of iCloud under China-specific terms of service.

Those terms note that both Apple and GCBD will have access to customer data: “You understand and agree that 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.”

In November 2017, Amazon sold its Chinese AWS infrastructure to its local partner Beijing Sinnet, to comply with the same laws.

In that agreement, AWS explained to The Register, Beijing Sinnet took over the physical infrastructure of AWS's bit barns, but not the IP: “AWS continues to own the intellectual property for AWS Services worldwide”.

Russia has implemented similar requirements, with all data held by foreign companies on its citizens required to reside on Russian soil. Debate continues on whether both nations' policies were implemented to bring data closer to their own spooks, place it further from US spooks, to foster local industry, or all of the above. ®

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