That’s because of a variation to how the company handles the cryptographic keys needed to unlock an iCloud account. Until now, such keys must always be saved in the United States, suggesting that any government or law enforcement administration attempting access to a Chinese iCloud account needed to go within the U.S. legal system.
Now, according to Apple, for the first time, the company will store the keys for Chinese iCloud records in China itself. That means Chinese jurisdictions will no longer hold to use the U.S. courts to seek information on iCloud users and can instead use their own legal system to ask Apple to hand over iCloud data for Chinese users, legal experts said.
Human rights activists say they fear the jurisdictions could use that power to track down protesters, citing cases from more than a decade ago in which Yahoo Inc handed over user data that led to arrests and prison penalties for two democracy advocates. Jing Zhao, a human rights activist, and Apple stockholder, said he could envisage worse human rights issues resulting from Apple handing over iCloud data that occurred in the Yahoo case.
In a statement, Apple said it had to comply with freshly introduced Chinese laws that require cloud services offered to Chinese citizens be produced by Chinese companies and that the data be stored in China. It said that while the company’s values don’t change in various parts of the world, it is subject to each country’s laws.
“While we advocated upon iCloud being subject to these laws, we were eventually unsuccessful,” it said. Apple said it decided it was better to offer iCloud under the new policy because discontinuing it would lead to a bad user event and actually lead to less data privacy and security for its Chinese customers.
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