Apple has begun using Chinese servers to store Chinese user data, the company has confirmed in a statement to the Wall Street Journal. The new arrangement had been reported previously by 9to5Mac after they spotted a statement by the Fuzhuo City municipal government asserting that Apple had moved some of its iCloud data to China Telecom’s servers.
In its statement about the shift, Apple said that it made the move to “increase bandwidth and improve performance for [its] customers in mainland China,” but the WSJ rightly asserts that the move was likely more about answering security concerns around its data management policies raised by the Chinese government through its state-run publications.
Apple said that the data stored on China Telecom’s servers will be encrypted, and that it “takes security and privacy very seriously,” however, in order to curtail fears that working with Chinese cloud storage services would provide China’s government with easier access to user data. In fact, China regularly requires its own banks and telecom operators to use Chinese data store for the purposes of national security, so Apple’s decision is almost certainly about answering challenges including China Central Television’s claim that the iPhone was in fact a threat to national security, and possibly also about the recent ban of Apple devices from government agency procurement lists.
Outsourcing some of its iCloud storage needs in China will definitely help with bandwidth, and could improve the speed and reliability of the service for the growing number of users Apple is building up in China, but the work this deal can do in terms of winning over some support from authorities in China is much more valuable to Apple in terms of its long-term goals in the country, which continues to be an area of key growth for its device sales.