Apple announced today that it will hand over the operation of iCloud services for Chinese users to a local Chinese company as part of the company's efforts to comply with Chinese law.
The US company has started notifying users of the change and is allowing customers who don't agree with its decision to delete their iCloud accounts.
"After February 28, 2018, you will need to agree to the terms and conditions of iCloud operated by GCBD to keep using iCloud in China," Apple said today.
The firm that will be managing iClouds accounts for Chinese residents is Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data (GCBD), a company owned by the Guizhou provincial government.
Apple is trying to comply with local legislation that dictates that data for all Chinese users must be stored inside the country. Apple spent nearly $1 billion building a new data center for this purpose in the city of Guizhou, a data center that will host information on Chinese iCloud accounts.
GCBD will start operating the infrastructure that hosts info on Chinese iCloud accounts starting February 28th, 2018. Apple will still have access to the data.
Apple says that iCloud accounts that have China in their country or region setting will be subject to this transition.
Despite this, some Chinese users that had their accounts associated with other regions of the world also appear to have received the notification regarding their data being transferred over to GCBD.
STRANGE: my US Apple ID also got the China iCloud Transfer mail... pic.twitter.com/MZvjsbPiYL— 王博源 Wang Boyuan (@thisboyuan) January 11, 2018
The Chinese government has always used a strong hand in coercing companies into handing over access to the data of Chinese citizens.
Tencent is infamous for giving the Chinese government free reign to access the data of WeChat users. The Chinese government has used this easy access to test using WeChat accounts as official government electronic IDs.
Apple has gotten used to giving in to this pressure too. In July 2017, Apple removed tens of VPN apps from the Chinese version of the App Store. Apple justified its decision by saying they had to comply with a Chinese government ruling that mandated that all VPN apps must register with the government to be allowed to operate in the country.