The criticism of Apple’s actions in China flares up again: In order not to annoy government authorities, the group has made far-reaching concessions in terms of data protection, security and censorship around iCloud and the App Store in recent years, such as the New York Times reported.
Apple did not keep the keys required to decrypt the iCloud data of Chinese users in its US data centers, but instead transferred them to China, the newspaper writes. The local iCloud data centers there are operated by a Chinese partner company that is owned by the state.
Apple rejects allegations
The group was prohibited from using its hardware security modules (HSM) from a French manufacturer, which are otherwise used in iCloud data centers for key management, as the New York Times executes with reference to internal documents and former employees. Apple has therefore developed its own new module that is based on cheap Apple TV components.
Apple rejected the statement to the newspaper that the information was based on outdated information. The data centers in China are Apple’s newest and therefore have the “latest and most advanced protection mechanisms” at their disposal. Apple has never compromised the security of its users – neither in China nor anywhere else, the company assured.
iCloud only partially with end-to-end encryption
Apple moved the data of Chinese iCloud users to China at the beginning of 2018, which was necessary due to “local cybersecurity guidelines”, it said at the time – a step that has already triggered considerable criticism. For a lot of iCloud data – including the iCloud backups of iPhones – Apple still does not use end-to-end encryption.
The report of the New York Times also sheds light on other areas of Apple’s approach in China, including the removal of critical apps from the App Store. Apple emphasized again that you have to follow the respective laws in every country, even if you do not always agree with them. China is one of Apple’s largest markets, a significant number of the suppliers are located on site and the vast majority of iPhones are assembled there.