Now, according to Apple, for the first time, the company will store the keys for Chinese iCloud accounts in China itself, which means Chinese authorities can use their own legal system to ask Apple to hand over iCloud data for Chinese users rather than working through the USA legal system according to experts.
In order to conform with Chinese cybersecurity laws, Apple will for the first time move cryptographic iCloud account keys out of the US and into China when it migrates customer data to a local server farm in late February. That means Chinese authorities will no longer have to use the USA 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.
The migration of data to Chinese servers has been met with concerns from privacy and human rights activists all around the world.
Human rights activists have voiced fear the authorities could use the power to track down dissidents, citing cases from over a decade ago in which Yahoo Inc handed over user data that led to arrests and prison sentences for two democracy advocates. "While we advocated against iCloud being subject to these laws, we were ultimately unsuccessful", Apple said.
Apple notified users of the data transfer in January, saying stored information would be moved to servers operated by its in-country partner Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Co. Ltd.