According to Apple Inc., iCloud services in mainland China will be transferred to cloud company in Guizhou and will be responsible for the operation starting from February 28 this year, Chinese media People’s Daily is reporting. 

Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Development Co., Ltd. (GCBD, 云上贵州公司) will be responsible for iCloud operations in mainland China and will have legal and financial relations with iCloud users in mainland China. The company was approved for operation by the People’s Government of Guizhou Province in November 2014, meaning that the company is sponsored by Guizhou Big Data Development Administration and supervised by the Board of Supervisors of Guizhou State-owned enterprises.

In July 2016, Apple set up its first data center in China in an effort to comply with country’s newly passed cybersecurity regulations. The data center project is part of the tech giant’s planned $1 billion investment in Guizhou province and is operated in partnership with GCBD.

“Chinese users like to use iCloud to securely store photos, videos, documents, and applications and stay in sync on all devices. We believe new partnerships will improve the Chinese iCloud user experience by reducing latency and improving reliability,” Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president for environment, policy and social affairs said.

While moving iCloud to China will improve the speed and reliability of Apple’s services, it raised data protection concerns since all data will be required to be reviewed and approved by Chinese regulators before transferring abroad.

In the meantime, Apple emphasized in its statement that “Apple has a strong data privacy and security mechanism and will not create a backdoor in any of our systems.” In addition, Apple also said that they will collaborate with Guizhou on the cloud and will only respond to legal requests for data. Apple also said that it can not unlock unlocked iPhone or iPad.

Within a seven-week period from January 10, users will receive this notice by e-mail and push notifications from Apple and iCloud’s system will make sure the users have received at least one notice, in order to complete the user’s service migration. As of February 28 this year, if the user has not received the notice, their accounts will not be moved to Guizhou’s cloud and will remain in the disabled state. During deactivation, data previously stored by the user in iCloud will also be stored in iCloud and will not be lost. If a user disables the iCloud service after February 28, Apple users will need to accept the new terms and conditions to ensure that your account is reactivated and moved to Guizhou’s cloud.

In the new terms and conditions of iCloud operated by GCBD, GCBD comes out four times. Basically, it tells you all the data you store with iCloud, including photos, videos, documents, and backups, will be transferred to GCBD.

Here are the 4 major additions to the TOS for Chinese users:

  1. Welcome to iCloud operated by GCBD
    THIS LEGAL AGREEMENT BETWEEN YOU AND GUIZHOU ON THE CLOUD BIG DATA INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT CO., LTD (“GCBD”) GOVERNS YOUR USE OF THE ICLOUD PRODUCT, SOFTWARE, SERVICES, AND WEBSITES (COLLECTIVELY REFERRED TO AS THE ‘SERVICE’).
  2. Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate your Account may be terminated and all Content within your Account deleted. Contact iCloud Support at Electronic Information Industry Park of Gui An New Area, Guizhou province, P.R. China for further assistance.
  3. If while using the Service, you encounter Content you find inappropriate, or otherwise believe to be a violation of any copyrights, or of this Agreement, you may report it by contacting GCBD at Electronic Information Industry Park of Gui An New Area, Guizhou province, P.R. China.
  4. To terminate your Account and delete your Apple ID, contact GCBD Support at Electronic Information Industry Park of Gui An New Area, Guizhou province, P.R. China.

Why Guizhou?

Foxconn bases in China (Image Credit: Nikkei)

You might wonder, why is iCloud’s Chinese partner based in Guizhou, not other provinces in China? Located in Southwest China, Guizhou is one of the first provinces in China to have developed a big data industrial sector to lift its people out of poverty.

Leveraging the local government’s support, numerous tech giants also have chosen Guizhou province to place their servers. Prior to Apple, Apple’s smartphone rival Huawei established their data centers in Guizhou in August. More importantly, Apple’s main supplier in Asia, Foxconn also holds several tens of thousand servers in the region. As you can see from the map, Guiyang is geographically the belly button of Apple’s device manufacturing factories in China, surrounded by Chengdu, producing iPads, Shenzhen producing Macs, and Zhengzhou and Taiyuan, producing iPhones. In November, Apple has been accused of relying on students working illegal overtime to build the iPhone X, through Foxconn, which manufactures the devices in Zhengzhou.