Apple stores iCloud accounts and key Chinese citizens in domestic data centers

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The Chinese government forced Apple to store iCloud user account data from Chinese origin in local data center starting February 28th. In addition to iCloud account data, Apple will also store the cryptography keys needed to unlock the account.

Previously, both accounts and keys were stored in the United States. This means that Chinese authorities requiring iCloud Chinese account keys must go through the US legal system to obtain the key.

After the accounts and keys have been stored in China on February 28, Chinese state and law enforcement authorities will be able to access iCloud data through their own country legal system when requiring information related to Chinese citizens' users. This makes it easier for the Chinese government to access data when compared to before.

In June last year, the Chinese government made a new cybersecurity regulation, forcing companies like Apple to store local user data inside a local data center operated by a local company.

To comply with the law in China, Apple opened the data center by holding a company shaded by Guizhou, the Cloud Big Data Industry Co. Ltd., which also works with the government and the Chinese Communist Party.

Apple said that their agreement to work with the company does not mean China has special access to user data. Apple claims to keep the encryption key even though the Chinese user's iCloud account will be under the control of Apple's partners in the country.

iCloud account holders in China are required to be cautious, because governments and regulators will be able to sue more easily if they find suspicious and do not need court assistance in order to obtain such information. Authorities with a warrant may request information stored on iCloud accounts starting later this month.

Apple mentions that 99.9 percent of iCloud users in China have signed new Terms of Service pages, allowing new data centers to take over their accounts.

Only users who choose China as a country of residence when enabling Apple become a device that is affected by this Apple decision. This will not affect users in Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan.