Apple has admitted to storing its users’ personal data on servers in China, citing the move as a bid to improve the performance of its cloud services.
The company explained that by positioning data centres closer to its customers on mainland China it will help to ensure their access to iCloud storage services is as fast as possible.
Apple announced that data will be kept on servers provided by China Telecom Group, the country’s third-largest wireless carrier.
Other technology companies, notably Google, have avoided storing their customers’ data on the Chinese mainland due to concerns over privacy and the need to comply with China’s censorship laws.
Answering these concerns, Apple denied that its deal with China Telecom Group compromised the safety or privacy of its users’ data.
“Apple takes user security and privacy very seriously. We have added China Telecom to our list of data centre providers to increase bandwidth and improve performance for our customers in mainland China,” Apple declared. “All data stored with our providers is encrypted, China Telecom does not have access to the content.”
It is likely that some scepticism will surround Apple’s statement, as all data stored in China is subject to the nation’s law, which could be used to force Apple to hand over information to authorities.
Apple declined to comment further on its move, or about how it would comply with Chinese law regarding data use and access.
In the past, such situations have caused other companies problems. Yahoo discovered this in 2004 when it was required to hand over a journalist’s emails to Chinese authorities, which led to the journalist being identified, arrested and spending eight years in prison.
Apple has already courted controversy over its presence in China when recently the company had to allay fears that iPhones were being used to track Chinese citizens.
Privacy and data security issues aside, the decision by Apple to use Chinese data centres is indicative of how important the company views China as a region of growth.
Demand for iPhones is strong in China when compared with other markets that have become saturated with the latest generation of Apple devices.
Equally noteworthy is how much Apple relies on Chinese manufacturers to build and supply its handsets to meet the hefty global demand every time a new iPhone or iPad is released.