Apple fined by Russian court for refusing to store users’ iCloud data in Russia

Russia has apparently required Apple users to store iCloud data relating to Russian citizens nationally. Apple apparently refused to comply, based on an Interfax report (via Reuters).

The court fined Apple 2 million rubles (worth about $34,000) for non-compliance. Russian courts have increasingly clashed with big (mostly US-based) tech companies over content censorship and data control issues in the months following the country’s invasion of Ukraine. .

While Apple apparently didn’t respect Russia’s wishes to have user data physically located within its borders, it was willing to work with China to do something similar.

Apple operates about a dozen data centers around the world; a handful in the United States, one in Denmark and a few in China. iCloud data is also stored (encrypted) on third-party cloud storage services like Google Cloud (Apple is said to be Google’s biggest cloud customer, storing over 8 exabytes of data on its platform) and Microsoft Azure.

Following local law changes in 2016, Apple now hosts all Chinese users’ iCloud data in Chinese data centers operated by GCBD, using in part the state-owned China Telecom cloud service. Apple maintains that it controls the encryption keys for all data stored there, and the Chinese government does not have access to them.

Nonetheless, Apple has been repeatedly criticized for the move by privacy advocates, who say the geographic proximity is enough to allow the Chinese government to easily intercept iCloud data communications.

It’s possible that one of the reasons Apple opposes Russia is that Russia demanded more invasive management policies that the company was not comfortable with. Apple has yet to comment on the report.

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