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Media Watchdog Advises Journalists in China to Avoid Using iCloud Accounts, Citing Privacy Fears

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Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RWB/RSF) has urged journalists using iCloud in China to migrate away from Apple's cloud service this month, before control of their data is handed over to a Chinese company (via Hong Kong Free Press).

Beginning February 28, Apple's iCloud services in mainland China will be operated by Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data (GCBD), which is owned by the Guizhou provincial government in southern China.


The firm is set to manage Apple's new $1 billion data center, which opened in the region last year. The operational change was agreed between Apple and the Chinese government, bringing the tech giant into compliance with the country's new cloud computing regulations.

Apple says the partnership with GCBD will improve the speed and reliability of iCloud services and products, and has assured iCloud customers that no backdoors had been created into any of its systems. However, press freedom advocates fear that user data will become accessible to the Chinese state as a result of the switch. Earlier this week, RWB/RSF explicitly criticized Apple's "readiness to accommodate China's authoritarian regime".
"Apple promises that it will never give governments a backdoor to content, but there is no way of being sure about this," Head of RSF's East Asia bureau Cédric Alviani said.

"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."
Last month, Apple contacted and advised customers in China 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. Customers who did not want to use iCloud operated by GCBD were also given the option to terminate their account before the February 28 switch.

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: Media Watchdog Advises Journalists in China to Avoid Using iCloud Accounts, Citing Privacy Fears
 

Xgm541

macrumors 65816
May 3, 2011
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Are all accounts that use a Chinese carrier automatically assumed to be Chinese or does the migration happen only if your account region is set to china?
 
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Shirasaki

macrumors G4
May 16, 2015
10,285
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Are all accounts that use a Chinese carrier automatically assumed to be Chinese or does the migration happen only if your account region is set to china?
I would assume the account region matters, not the carrier. But who knows. Apple definitely can distribute your data across multiple servers and we never know. Even this migration, there will be an untold number of unsuspecting customers data being moved to Chinese server nonetheless.
 

Plutonius

macrumors G3
Feb 22, 2003
8,734
7,915
New Hampshire, USA
I'm curious what services the journalist using iCloud in China are supposed to migrate to ?

The ruling seems to apply to all web services in China and people there can also not setup VPN networks.

A lockdown only works if there are no ways to bypass it.
 
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JediZenMaster

Suspended
Mar 28, 2010
2,180
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Seattle
Apple is all SJW but they’ll grab their ankles if china asks.

I disagree. China was not backing down on this at all and you folks who are criticizing Apple for this decision would then be upset over the loss of China as a market for those of you who are shareholders.

You don’t get to have it both ways. Either they do this or they lose sales.
 

neutralguy

macrumors 6502a
Jun 5, 2015
767
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I disagree. China was not backing down on this at all and you folks who are criticizing Apple for this decision would then be upset over the loss of China as a market for those of you who are shareholders.

You don’t get to have it both ways. Either they do this or they lose sales.
True. But I don't see Google or Facebook bending over backwards to get business in China. Why is Apple so desperate for China business?
 

GrumpyMom

macrumors G3
Sep 11, 2014
9,229
13,225
According to the article this firm is owned by the Chinese government. So uh...no backdoors needed, right? It’s the fox being put in charge of the hen house.

I’m actually going to side with @JediZenMaster here and acknowledge that Apple had to do this if they want to stay in business in China. It’s too huge of a market to abandon and they’ve invested too much into China to back away now.

Is it disgusting and hypocritical? Well, yeah. But we in the U.K. and USA know darned well and good our %%*+ is under surveillance, too, whenever and however our govts can pull it off. If not for whistleblowers we never would have had knowledge of it, just suspicions. And if the government doesn’t poke around in our data, the carriers and the services we use do. Our freedom of speech is also manipulated, too. Many people have made charges of biased policies on social media as it pertains to political expression. Ideals are extremely important but hard cold realism and pragmatism are also necessary for survival while we struggle to align reality to our ideals.

My guess is that the executives considered all of this when they made their concessions to China. I’m not a big fan of globalism. In fact I often loathe it. But if you’re going to take a company global, this is the crap you deal with and idealism and values often are sacrificed to the dictates of another culture...hence my distaste for most globalist thought and policy.

The way our markets currently work, the pressure to take businesses bigger and bigger and ultimately global is almost impossible to resist. I’ve seen this take place in the trajectory of my husband’s career, going from a small company that got sold to ever bigger and bigger ones.

China is...a many headed beast. I sometimes wish I could live several hundred years just to see how it turns out with them. At other times, I’m glad I’m halfway through my projected lifespan because I can’t bear to see a government like theirs succeed on all of the lives they trampled. But again, what nation isn’t built over trampled corpses?
 

69650

Suspended
Mar 23, 2006
3,367
1,877
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It’s about time somebody had the balls to stand up to China. If Trump banned all Chinese imports into the US things would soon start to change. We should be trying to push China back into the economic wilderness rather than helping them create the worlds biggest economy.
 
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springsup

macrumors 65816
Feb 14, 2013
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I'm not sure if that is technically true. Modern encryption and standards like HTTPS are designed precisely to allow secure communication over insecure links. Theoretically they should be able to receive and store the data securely.
 

jbellanca

macrumors 6502
Jul 2, 2007
391
61
Wait, this recommendation doesn't make sense at all, and I suspect they don't understand the tech behind their recommendation. Every article I read previously said it's the region of the Apple ID iCloud account that dictates whether the Chinese servers are used or not. That was even the clarification Apple had to make when some accounts were mistakenly told they would be transferred over. All the reports, and Apple, has said if your region is not China, your data won't be in China, only those with a Chinese region. So, as far as I can tell from what we've been told previously, this doesn't impact travelers at all - unless they're Chinese travelers.
[doublepost=1518109415][/doublepost]
True. But I don't see Google or Facebook bending over backwards to get business in China. Why is Apple so desperate for China business?

Growth. The stock market demands they show growth, or they're "doomed" and the stock price falls. That's the bad side of being a public company. I'd bet they'd buy back all their stock if they thought it was feasible.
 

macs4nw

macrumors 601
It’s about time somebody had the balls to stand up to China. If Trump banned all Chinese imports into the US things would soon start to change. We should be trying to push China back into the economic wilderness rather than helping them create the worlds biggest economy.
I fear that train has left the station. It would take a global boycott of China as manufacturers of goods to make China even consider changing their ways. And which nation currently can go back to manufacturing things for themselves again, and at what cost? Even if feasible, it would take decades to rebuild and modernize decimated western factories to produce decent quality, ordinary household items again at volumes required.

No, this is a reality the west has to live with, and only the Chinese people themselves can rise up to demand change, but that could be a long and bloody road ahead with China's entrenched political system and iron-fisted communist dictatorship.
 

onepoint

macrumors 6502a
Aug 3, 2010
832
488
USA
End-to-end encrypted data
End-to-end encryption provides the highest level of data security. Your data is protected with a key derived from information unique to your device, combined with your device passcode, which only you know. No one else can access or read this data.​

These features and their data are transmitted and stored in iCloud using end-to-end encryption:​

  • iCloud Keychain (Includes all of your saved accounts and passwords)
  • Payment information
  • Wi-Fi network information
  • Home data
  • Siri information
Only the above items are fully secured. Everything else stored in iCloud, though “encrypted,” can apparently be accessed as Apple holds the encryption keys regarding their own servers.

edit: notably missing, iMessage - with iOS 11.3 beta enabling iCloud backup of iMessage, all conversations will potentially be opened up to legal/law enforcement review
 
Last edited:
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npmacuser5

macrumors 65816
Apr 10, 2015
1,254
1,293
China controls every aspect of the internet within their boarders. They can access anyones devices or any data they choose. If encryption causing a problem, they send a text or a personal visit to say turn it off. First warning, you do not want to get a second warning. A fellow traveler decided to use a VPN to get around their internet rules. In Shanghai, 30 million people, on the 20th hotel floor, and within a couple hours two nicely dressed Chinese Security at his door, first warning. In China, nowhere to hide if one attaches their internet. Sum it up. If they cannot get access to your data by technology they just politely ask, one time.
 

Weaselboy

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
30,914
10,705
California
End-to-end encrypted data
End-to-end encryption provides the highest level of data security. Your data is protected with a key derived from information unique to your device, combined with your device passcode, which only you know. No one else can access or read this data.​

These features and their data are transmitted and stored in iCloud using end-to-end encryption:​

  • iCloud Keychain (Includes all of your saved accounts and passwords)
  • Payment information
  • Wi-Fi network information
  • Home data
  • Siri information
Only the above items are fully secured. Everything else stored in iCloud, though “encrypted,” can apparently be accessed.

iCloud backups are encrypted in transit and on the server and cannot be accessed. The difference for the items you listed is they are also encrypted on the iOS device.

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 9.33.09 AM.png
 

onepoint

macrumors 6502a
Aug 3, 2010
832
488
USA

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Weaselboy

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DominikHoffmann

macrumors regular
Jan 15, 2007
186
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Commonwealth of Virginia
Even, if everything is encrypted, do we know, what the law is and the rules are regarding HTTPS? What if I access my stuff on iCloud.com? I would at least refrain from using the iCloud website.

I work for a company doing a lot of contract work with the U.S. military. We are prohibited from using any cloud services other than those the company has specifically contracted to use.

You experts out there, back me up or correct me on this. Unless you

1. hold the encryption keys, which you don’t with iCloud or HTTPS, and
2. you have examined the source code and compiled it yourself,

you can never be truly sure that your information is safe.
 
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onepoint

macrumors 6502a
Aug 3, 2010
832
488
USA
Even, if everything is encrypted, do we know, what the law is and the rules are regarding HTTPS? What if I access my stuff on iCloud.com? I would at least refrain from using the iCloud website.

I work for a company doing a lot of contract work with the U.S. military. We are prohibited from using any cloud services other than those the company has specifically contracted to use.

You experts out there, back me up or correct me on this. Unless you

1. hold the encryption keys, which you don’t with iCloud or HTTPS, and
2. you have examined the source code and compiled it yourself,

you can never be truly sure that your information is safe.
The above link (guidelines for law enforcement requests) indicates that Apple holds the encryption keys for data stored on its iCloud servers.
 

npmacuser5

macrumors 65816
Apr 10, 2015
1,254
1,293
Even, if everything is encrypted, do we know, what the law is and the rules are regarding HTTPS? What if I access my stuff on iCloud.com? I would at least refrain from using the iCloud website.

I work for a company doing a lot of contract work with the U.S. military. We are prohibited from using any cloud services other than those the company has specifically contracted to use.

You experts out there, back me up or correct me on this. Unless you

1. hold the encryption keys, which you don’t with iCloud or HTTPS, and
2. you have examined the source code and compiled it yourself,

you can never be truly sure that your information is safe.
If you are within Chinese boarders, want to come home, they only ask one time. Your data is not safe unless you have some form of diplomatic exemptions, period.
 

onepoint

macrumors 6502a
Aug 3, 2010
832
488
USA
If you do not utilize iCloud backup, the on-device encryption is what has led to the FBI/Apple encryption standoff - Apple cannot access encrypted information stored on the device itself and refuses (so far) to build a backdoor into iOS.
 
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