In a move that highlights the challenges that western companies face when doing business in China, Apple has started storing its Chinese users’ iCloud data on servers managed by government-run China Telecom. The change was first revealed in an announcement on the official website of the city of Fuzhou that has since been removed, reports Apple Insider. According to the announcement from Fuzhou’s city government, the data transfer was completed on August 8. Apple later confirmed the move with a statement provided to several media outlets.
“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,” said Apple via Apple Insider. “All data stored with our providers is encrypted, China Telecom does not have access to the content.”
While Apple is emphasizing that the change will improve the performance of iCloud for Chinese users, some industry watchers have noted that the change follows recent comments from government-run media outlets in China that suggested Apple was helping the U.S. government to spy on Chinese users. In July, Reuters reported that Apple’s iPhone was described as a threat to national security by China Central Television because of the “Frequent Locations” service that is available in iOS 7. The CCTV report claimed that the feature could be used to surreptitiously track users and reveal “state secrets.” This has raised questions about whether Apple’s recent data storage shift was more about bowing to Chinese government pressure than it was about improving the experience for end users.