Reasons to be happy about Apple’s local data deal

By Xiao Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/5 22:18:40

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

Apple's much-hyped China data center - which is reportedly scheduled to be launched in early 2020 - is proof that the tech giant is moving proactively to align itself with China's internet security regulations.

Some users seem to be concerned about the fact that the new data center in Southwest China's Guizhou Province will be operated by Apple's local partner - the government-owned Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Co (GCBD) - fearing their personal data might be scrutinized. But such fears should by no means mask the positive effects of the venture.

The data center will have investment of $1 billion and construction will begin this year, with operation scheduled to start in early 2020, the Guizhou Metropolis Daily reported at the end of January. By then, all the data of the iCloud users in the Chinese mainland will be migrated from overseas to the Guizhou data center.

During the transitional period before the new data center is up and running, GCBD will provide iCloud services by renting servers from the county's three major telecom carriers, according to the report.

Roughly a week earlier, Apple announced the handover of iCloud operations to GCBD, starting from February 28.

The announcement, made via emailed and push notifications sent to Apple's mainland users, led some to worry that their personal privacy might be compromised, with some potentially preparing to switch to their overseas iCloud accounts. Adding to the anxiety, a Reuters report in January said several Chinese users who had set up US iCloud accounts also received notices requesting them to "opt into the transfer or risk losing their data."

These worries, though understandable, lay bare the shortsightedness of failing to realize the benefits of Apple's move. It's not only GCBD that will gain tangible benefits, with the iCloud operations alone set to bring revenues of $1 billion to the data operator per annum; a wide range of entities will also benefit from the new data center.

Individual users, for their part, will have their data privacy better protected, as the Chinese government is expected to effectively ensure data security.

The country's Cybersecurity Law came into effect on June 1, 2017. Meant to build a stronger safety net overseeing cyberspace, the new law stipulates that companies have to store all data within the country and pass security reviews. One month later, Apple announced that it would set up a data center in the country, in an attempt to meet the requirements of the new law and contribute to a more secure internet.

It is anticipated that China will work together with the likes of Apple to jointly enhance the country's ability to protect data from attacks and threats. iCloud data, as long as it complies with the country's laws and regulations, will come under stricter protection, to an extent that even goes beyond the levels of protection in the US and Europe.

This, in addition to better user experience with iCloud services, is expected to be a boon rather than a source of concern for Apple users. The handover of operations, it is believed, will mean that mainland users no longer have to connect to Apple's North Carolina data center before connecting back to the mainland to visit Apple iCloud, therefore enabling a more stable network and faster download speeds.

Other than that, Chinese businesses and institutions might no longer have to worry about the possible loss of Chinese data stored in overseas data centers and may accordingly increase their use of iCloud services. Chinese companies will also feel relieved to cooperate more with Apple in the field of cloud technologies.

Also, Apple's proactive move will win the company greater involvement in collecting and analyzing local data. This will be of vital importance for the US technology pioneer to better cater to the Chinese market, which plays a significant part in defining its success.

As such, the Guizhou data center and GCBD's pending takeover of iCloud operations actually offer something to be excited about. The outmoded idea of better data protection beyond the home market should be abandoned.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: INSIDER'S EYE

blog comments powered by Disqus