Apple to begin hosting Chinese users iCloud accounts in a local data center this week

Looking to comply with new laws, Apple this week will begin hosting Chinese users' iCloud accounts in a local data center, taking a step that alarms some privacy specialists: storing the encryption keys for those accounts in China.

"Once the keys are there, they can't necessarily pull out and take those keys because the server could be seized by the Chinese government," Matthew Green, a professor of cryptography at Johns Hopkins University, told The Wall Street Journal.

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Apple will hand its China cloud operations over to a state-owned partner Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Co. (GCBD). GCBD was approved by People's Government of Guizhou Province in November, 2014, with registered capital of 235 million yuan. The company is sponsored by Guizhou Big Data Development Administration and supervised by the Board of Supervisors of Guizhou State-owned enterprises.

China law requires companies to store customer data collected in the region locally. With the handover, photos, documents and messages uploaded by Apple users throughout the country will be stored at a data center in the southwest province of Guizhou .

Chinese iCloud customers have been notified of the change and had the option to keep using the service or deactivate it by the transfer date, according to the WSJ.