International User Accounts Swept Up in Chinese iCloud Data Migration [Updated]


macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

Apple's announcement on Wednesday that its iCloud services in mainland China will be handed over to a Chinese company has already run into controversy, after it emerged that accounts registered overseas are being swept up in the migration.

Apple said yesterday that customers based in China had been contacted and advised to examine new terms and conditions, which include a clause that both Apple and the Chinese firm will have access to all data stored on iCloud servers, which will be transferred from February 28. Customers living in mainland China who did not want to use iCloud operated by GCBD had been given the option to terminate their account.

However, according to some users who spoke to TechCrunch, in the data to be handled by local partner Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD), Apple is including iCloud accounts that were opened in the U.S., are paid for using U.S. dollars, and/or are connected to U.S.-based App Store accounts.

STRANGE: my US Apple ID also got the China iCloud Transfer mail... - ??? Wang Boyuan (@thisboyuan) January 11, 2018

When asked for comment, Apple pointed to its terms and conditions site, which explains that it is migrating iCloud accounts based on the settings of the user's device, not where an iCloud account is registered or billed to.
The operation of iCloud services associated with Apple IDs that have China in their country or region setting will be subject to this transition. You will be notified of this transition via email and notifications on your devices. You don't need to take any further action and can keep using iCloud in China.

After February 28, 2018, you will need to agree to the terms and conditions of iCloud operated by GCBD to keep using iCloud in China.
As it stands, this could result in thousands of users temporarily living in China to study or work having their data migrated to servers under the control of GCBD, which is owned by the Guizhou provincial government in southern China.

The situation is said to have left many users feeling trapped into the migration, but one user has discovered an apparent opt-out. This involves switching an iCloud account back to China before signing out of all devices. The user then switches their iPhone and iCloud settings to the U.S., and after signing back into iCloud, their account should no longer be part of the migration.

"What will Apple do when the Chinese authorities request a backdoor to access data that is encrypted?" Charlie Smith, founder of censorship monitoring site Great Fire, told TechCrunch. "Will they continue to adhere to local laws and regulations and submit to the request? Or are they leaving this decision squarely in the hands of GCBD, their local partner?"

Updated: Apple says a very small number of customers whose Apple ID country is not China received this notice by mistake, as noted by TechCrunch. Apple says no changes have been made to these users' iCloud accounts.
You recently received an email from us notifying you about an upcoming change for iCloud services in China. This email was sent in error. No changes have been made to your iCloud account.

We are very sorry that you received this email. This email was intended only for customers whose Apple ID country is China. A very small number of our customers who Apple ID country is not China also received this email by mistake.
Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Article Link: International User Accounts Swept Up in Chinese iCloud Data Migration [Updated]


macrumors G3
May 16, 2015
Guess it is time to permanently leave my iCloud account in Australia and try to salvage some apps downloaded from Chinese App Store to Australian store and abandon those which are unwanted or less important.

Such “international migration” is not what I want. Period.


macrumors 68040
Sep 25, 2012
Alberto, Canado
I'm not Chinese, never been to China, never had a Chinese App Store account. But I once had an Apple user account with username like FortuneCookie. Oh noes! Will all my subsequent Apple accounts now be lumped into the Chinese servers? :p
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macrumors 6502
Feb 1, 2014
It’s a sad situation that China feels the need to do this. Heavy handed government is never good for the people. I understand their want to keep citizens data on servers within China, but forcing to partner with a Chinese company sounds like a sly way to get into users cloud data.
What are Google and Microsoft doing?
As far as I know google is almost, if not completely, non existent in China. Googles main focus is on colllecting users data, and China isn’t cool with letting a foreign company collect its citizens data. As for Microsoft I’m unsure about that one


macrumors 6502a
Sep 19, 2011
I'm not Chinese, never been to China, never had a Chinese App Store account. But I once had an Apple user account with username like FortuneCookie. Oh noes! Will all my subsequent Apple accounts now be lumped into the Chinese servers? :p
No because that term isn't even remotely connected to China. It's 'Murican.

Yes this is about $$$$$$ for Apple, but it's also about operating within the laws/regulations of another country. We talk about freedom this, freedom that, but we're lucky to be living in North America. Unfortunately for Apple, a foreign company operating in China, they have to follow the law of the land.


macrumors 68030
May 14, 2012
Well at least they are informing their users the they are about to read all their data in the cloud. In America the govmnt uses secret programs like PRISM to spy on us and we don't find out until someone blows the whistle that our Fourth Admendment is being violated and then they have to flee the country for their lives.


macrumors regular
Sep 25, 2015
Wait, so what are the exact implications of this move? I remember from the San Bernardino shooters’ case that Apple was able to access iCloud data of the terrorist upon request, without much hassle. Does this mean that GCBD (and hence the Chinese government) will also be able to do so or is there some extra layer of security where Apple has control over e.g. encryption keys?

Second, is this migration somehow paired up with banning the iCloud for all other users who don’t go through the Chinese servers, e.g. will iCloud be inaccessible to a visitor from abroad same way Dropbox is?

It’s sad news for freedom, but not unexpected given China’s recent laws on intelligence gathering (passed in Spring-Summer 2017, which mandate that basically everyone is legally required to cooperate with its intelligence agencies), a new crackdown on VPNs and introduction of Social Credit pilot schemes in several cities which are designed almost exactly as shown in one of the Black Mirror episodes, only it’s the Big Brother that awards you points.


macrumors G3
May 16, 2015
It appears that going to and clicking opt-out will show this message if you are not affected by this change.

The country or region setting for your Apple ID associated with iCloud is not set to China.

This website is only intended for iCloud users in China.
Mine shows the English version of that icloud service change message after clicking that link but I did not receive an email from Apple notifying me of corresponding change. My Apple ID was originally registered in China but now in Australia. Don’t know why. Oh, and there is no “opt out” button to click.
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