French nonprofit advocacy group Reporters without Borders (RSF) is calling on journalists in China to close their iCloud accounts in wake of Apple’s recent plans to migrate iCloud users in China to an outsourced Chinese company’s servers. RSF is suggesting that journalists and bloggers in the country who use Apple iCloud should either change their geographic region to avoid having their data migrated, or close their iCloud accounts entirely by Feb. 28, the day when, as RSF notes, “control of their data will pass to the Chinese state.”
Apple will be transferring iCloud operations in China to Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD) in order to improve speed and reliability and to comply with Chinese regulations, however the new hosting provider is linked to the government of the southern province of Guizhou, and RSF believes that, despite Apple’s assurances, there are no guarantees that the Chinese government will not have access to iCloud user data stored on GCBD’s servers.
For its part, Apple has emphasized that it has “never created a backdoor or master key to any of our products or services” and “never allowed any government direct access to Apple servers,” and Apple has reassured Chinese customers that their data remains secure and private. RSF, however, has stated that it “deplores Apple’s readiness to accommodate China’s authoritarian regime” and that Apple’s “desire to please Beijing is all the more remarkable given the determination which it resists pressure from other governments, especially on fiscal transparency.” RSF has also previously criticized Apple’s willingness to withdraw VPNs from the Chinese App Store at the government’s request, voicing concerns that Apple users could find their personal data being “shared with the extended family that is the Chinese Communist Party.” Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau, added “Apple promises that it will never give governments a backdoor to content, but there is no way of being sure about this.” and that “Knowing the Chinese government’s determination and the extent of the means of pressure at its disposal, it will end up getting its way sooner or later, if it hasn’t already.” [via The Verge]