Concerns rise over Apple's iCloud move
A number of Apple Inc's iCloud service users in the Chinese mainland have told the Global Times that they plan to move their data to overseas iCloud accounts or simply stop using the Apple cloud service following the company's recent announcement of plans to store user data at facilities run by a Chinese telecom operator.
Apple announced on January 10 that Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Development Co (GCBD), a data management company in Guiyang, capital of Southwest China's Guizhou Province, will start to operate an iCloud service in the mainland in cooperation with Apple from February 28. The companies said they will strictly follow the rules and regulations, and protect users' privacy and data security.
Although the transfer is still a month away, and Apple is in the process of informing its customers in the mainland, a topic devoted to the impact of the move on Chinese users and Apple on Quora-like Chinese online question-and-answer site zhihu.com had attracted 2,700 followers and nearly 1.2 million views as of press time Sunday.
Some expressed concern over privacy issues, the potential abuse of data for commercial purposes after the handover, the ability and will of GCBD to safeguard the data, and the lack of transparency in clauses governing the process in which users' data is viewed by the government, according to the law.
Some claim that moving their accounts overseas was a way to show their vigilance over personal data and privacy matters and an act that could increases difficulty for regulatory screening.
A user named Jacky in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province, said he plans to use two accounts, one registered in China and the other in Australia, after the transfer.
"The domestic accounts will be used to purchase apps, while the iCloud service for all my terminals will be logged with the Australian account," Jacky told the Global Times over the weekend.
"For various reasons, I prefer my iCloud data to be continually stored on servers located in the U.S., even though doing so will inevitably reduce transmission speed," he said.
Jacky said he knows of 10 other people considering transferring accounts, and only two among them had previously registered overseas accounts. Two other users plan to cut short their iCloud services because of the shift in data storage.
Jacky said he and his friends are all heavy-iCloud users who pay for extra space above the 5-gigabytes free storage provided by Apple.
Another user named Hu Ge said he "just doesn't want very private stuff such as contacts, memos and photos to be stored on a domestic server."
"Though there are no evident dangers at the moment, it is better to play safe with something like phone accounts, which are used for a lifetime," Hu told the Global Times, opting for an overseas account.
Another group of users simply opted to close their iCloud accounts.
Wang Xin, a university student in Beijing, said about 20 people around him said they will shut down the iCloud service.
"The user experience of both Apple's hardware and software has been deteriorating in recent years, and there is the concern over cyber information security," Wang said, noting that he and several people he knows of have already shut down their iCloud service.
There are also others who believe the rebasing of Apple's China cloud operations won't have much impact.
Zheng Chunhui, an independent analyst, told the Global Times on Sunday that it is understandable that some users will opt to close their accounts.
"Users who are willing to pay for extra services are more demanding for the stability and security of data they store, " Zheng said.
"Regulatory requirements could evolve from time to time, could crack down on non-compliant data... this poses a threat to individuals who store their data on the cloud," said Zheng, noting abuse of private data for commercial use in China is rampant so the issue of trust is not being made up out of thin air.
Liu Dingding, another independent technology analyst, said probably only a small number of Chinese users will eventually choose to relocate their data overseas, having little or no effect on Apple's iCloud service revenue.
"Among the several hundred people I contacted, less than 10 have been paying for iCloud service. So it will not affect Apple in a big way," Zheng said.
Apple and GCBD declined to comment.