Enterprise impact when Apple handing off Chinese iCloud operations to local firm in February

Apple has recently changed their iCloud terms and agreement for iCloud account using Chinese Apple ID, User is required to agree to the terms to use the below function in iCloud:

  • iCloud Backup
  • iCloud Photo Library
  • iCloud Photo Sharing
  • iCloud Drive
  • Find My iPhone or Find My Mac
  • Find My Friends
  • Apple Pay
  • iCloud Mail
  • Updates to your contacts, calendars, reminders, bookmarks, and Safari tabs
  • Shared Pages, Numbers, and Keynote documents
  • Shared Notes
  • Game Center
  • iCloud Keychain
  • Continuity features like Handoff, Universal Clipboard, and Auto Unlock with your Apple Watch
  • Home app to control your HomeKit devices
  • App data for any third-party apps that you’ve installed that use iCloud
  • Back to My Mac

The change in policy is due to Apple handing off Chinese iCloud operations to local firm GCBD in February
Below is what has changed in the policy:

“If you understand and agree, Apple and GCBD have the right to access your data stored on its servers. This includes permission sharing, exchange, and disclosure of all user data (including content) according to the application of the law.”

According to state media outlet People’s Daily (link in Chinese), GCBD is a data storage company established in 2014 by the local government of Guizhou province in southern China.

By moving data from its mainland Chinese users to a place inside the country’s borders, Apple is complying with China’s Cybersecurity Law.

On the other hand, this also suggest that enterprises and government agencies should start looking at their iCloud usage polices, if they do concerned about their user’s data stored on iCloud.

Users are likely to store corporate data in apps such as Notes, Keychain and Photos. This also pose a concern over privacy as iCloud is capable of tracking and locking of the device through Find My iPhone.

Only Apple ID created using a Chinese address or created in China to access Chinese App store will be affected by this change, however to identify where the Apple ID was created will be very challenging.

If corporate content is highly sensitive, it is ideal to setup policies to disable use of iCloud for any device capable of accessing corporate data on EMM platform.

If enterprise decide to go with a more relaxed approach and If the Apple ID is used for app download/purchasing only, they can also advise their users who use Chinese Apple ID to optout of iCloud service, to use the Apple ID purely for app download/purchasing. Here is how to.