Tim Cook insists China isn't using Apple to spy on its citizens

iPhone data of Chinese iPhone users is stored in China, but Tim Cook says the keys are safe here in the U.S.
October 3, 2018, 12:18am

Apple is storing iCloud user data in China, but that doesn’t mean the Chinese regime has the keys to access it. In an interview with VICE News, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple is maintaining its iron grip on privacy — even within the People’s Republic of China.

“The thing in China that some people have confused, is certain countries, and China is one of them, has a requirement that data from local citizens has to be kept in China,” Cook explained in an exclusive interview with Vice News. “We worked with a Chinese company to provide iCloud, but the keys which is the key, so to speak, pardon the pun, are ours.”


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Apple is one of few American tech companies that appears to operate freely in China. Google left the market many years ago after deciding not to censor search results to please government censors. Over the past decade, China has blocked Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp.

Apple began outsourcing its Chinese iCloud operations to a state-owned Chinese firm in February, in order to comply with Chinese cybersecurity laws. But Cook explained that Apple’s user data is stored around the world and its values are not affected by the location of its servers.

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“We have servers located in many different countries in the world,” he said. “They are not easier to get data from being in one country versus the next. The key question is how does the encryption process work and who owns the keys if anyone? In most cases for us, you and the receiver own the keys.”

Privacy, he said, is a key feature of Apple products. Personal information is stored on the device and not accessible to anyone, even Apple itself.

“I see privacy as one of the most important issues of the 21st century,” Cook said. “I see it as a fundamental human right.”