Apple to grant iCloud data access to Chinese Government?

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Not long ago, the Yahoo case that blew China by storm was talked about well after it ended and what could be the next happening of the same event might well be upon the Communist nation. The case between two countries, US and China, who’s business ethics are poles apart and embedded in their respective historical traditions. The United States  believes in freedom of speech and the right to petition the government while the Communist China finds some of those values hard to digest. This case presented the ethical dilemma faced by democratic multinationals conducting business globally.

Similarly, the recent case with Apple having to comply to Chinese laws forcing iCloud data to be available to the Chinese Government when before it was only available to US authorities and to other countries only by going through the US legal system first. According to China’s new laws the iCloud data would have to be stored in China itself through an arrangement between Apple and state-owned firm Guizhou – Cloud Big Data Industry Co Ltd., a firm that has been funded by the government and has close ties to the government and the communist regime. Various US tech companies find it a difficult predicament to be in as China offers a lucrative market but the Chinese Government is imposing various rules on the companies that go against their fundamental business ethics.

In the Yahoo! case, posed an important question, does the ‘trust’ that the company offers you translate to another language? In 2002 and 2004, Chinese citizens, Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao, were arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to prison for 10 years for e-mailing pro-democracy views from information provided by Yahoo! Corporation.  The wife of Xiaoning went to American court and sued Yahoo! under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act.  Yahoo! also faced immense criticism and was considered a warning signal to other companies that took their business global.  The clash of legal and cultural values is a fear for all US companies till date.

Although, the internet for the most part assures the safe transfer of information including allowing dissidents of China to communicate albeit with greater risk attached, their agreement with the rules of a foreign government makes that business ethic null and void.

China is the fastest growing Internet market in the world, representing over 162 million users, who either own a computer or use one from cyber or Internet cafés, which represent about 13% of the world population a huge population and a lucrative market to expect Yahoo!, Apple or any other company to give up.

Apple, though, persists that only the US based firm has control over encryption keys. Some changes do persist all the same, the logo of the state company will be co-branded for their iCloud accounts and all iCloud information will be made available to Chinese law enforcers. The laws for privacy in China are very different to US laws and the police can ask for a warrant for a case very prematurely and the public is forced to comply. Anti- communist conversations, having arguments online and trying to surf the internet privately are all punishable by the law.

Apple has been giving its Chinese users push alerts to remind them of the upcoming change due on the 28th of February, and remind them of the option of switching off iCloud altogether to prevent any information from being backed up at all. This recent change will only be towards users who have China set as their country.

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