Week in Review: January 19, 2018

by Dan Bateyko

Chinese firm to operate Mainland China Apple iCloud Accounts

On February 28, iCloud data for customers living in mainland China will transfer to the Chinese firm Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD), reports the BBC. Apple has made the move to comply with a set of Chinese data localization rules in China’s Cybersecurity Law passed last year.

According to the BBC article, Apple claims that they have "strong data privacy and security protections in place and no backdoors will be created into any of our systems"; however, a Quartz article states that “GCBD’s ties to the state only reduce the discretion Apple would have should a government body demand it hand over iCloud user data.” Amnesty International Regional Director for East Asia Nicholas Bequelin describes the move as to "Apple hand[ing] over to the Chinese government all the private data of its China-based users."

As the China Digital Times reports, the Apple data handoff follows soon after outrage over Apple’s decision to remove VPN applications from the Chinese App Store and a string of privacy concerns affecting Baidu, WeChat, and Alibaba.

Stanford CIS shares essays from Laws, Borders, and Speech Conference

The Center for Internet and Society (CIS) at Stanford Law School will be sharing excerpts from its Law, Borders, and Speech Conference Proceedings Volume for the next two weeks of January. Published December 2017, the volume collects insights from the eponymous conference, hosted in 2016, where panelists tackled questions ranging from "When should one country’s laws control speech and access to information around the world?" to "Should Internet platforms use technical means to block countries where their services, or information posted by their users, violate national law?”

In an excerpt concerning geoblocking technologies, panelists evaluated the consequences of technical tools such as network blocking that prevent Internet users from seeing certain content. Given the potential such blocks create for a Balkanized Internet and that Internet users can often circumvent these blocks through tools like a VPN or TOR, the panelists explored the concept of a “right to travel in cyberspace”— “In the physical world there are limitations, such as needing a passport to travel abroad. In cyberspace, it is up for debate what kinds of limitations are appropriate in which situations.”

The Proceedings include reading lists and conference slides, among other resources. The introduction to the volume can be found here, along with videos from the conference on the Stanford CIS YouTube account.

OONI adds WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram tests

The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) has added three new tests to its OONI Probe Mobile app, designed to measure blocking of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and TElegram.

OONI Research and Partnerships Coordinator Maria Xynou describes the changes in a mailing-list update:

“WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are frequently blocked in many countries around the world, while Telegram was recently blocked in Iran. By running these tests, you can collect network measurement data showing which ISPs block these apps, how, when, and where.”

To download OONI Probe mobile apps and contribute to testing, visit the OONI Install page.