Apple has today announced a date for its operational move of iCloud customer data for residents of mainland China, from US data centers to a new facility located locally in Guizhou. The change was announced last year; Apple is partnering with CGBD to comply with local laws.
Affected customers are now being notified about the transition which will start on February 28. Apple reassured users that the data will be protected by the same encryption standards as its current US policies and that no special backdoors will be created.
This means that customers who live within mainland China will see the physical storage location of their data change from March although it should go unnoticed in terms of available iCloud features and functionality.
Apple is emailing affected users over the next seven weeks ahead of the transition. In a statement from the company last year, it said spinning up the local Chinese facility (in partnership with the CGBD) “will allow us to improve the speed and reliability of our products and services while also complying with newly passed regulations”.
Apple already stores most iCloud customer data with strong encryption and there are no announced plans to change that for the China data center. Some critics believe that moving operations locally will make it easier for the Chinese government to spy on Apple users. It remains to be seen whether these fears will be realised.
Apple is one of the first big companies to move data operations domestically to comply with Chinese regulations although it is expected that other tech giants will follow soon.
The switchover will happen automatically on February 28. Apple customers in China will be notified in due course and can choose to deactivate their accounts if they are uncomfortable.