Apple storage of iCloud keys in China raise HR fears

24 Feb 2018

Apple is set to begin hosting Chinese iCloud accounts in China, raising fears about human rights, as state authorities gain easier access to data stored in the cloud, according to Reuters. The article reports that 'Human rights activists say they fear the authorities could use that power to track down dissidents.' Apple issued a statement saying that this is necessary to comply with new Chinese laws requiring that cloud services for Chinese citizens be stored in China, by Chinese companies, noting 'While we advocated against iCloud being subject to these laws, we were ultimately unsuccessful.' Apple said that iCoud keys stored in China will not give access to data stored in other countries, but privacy lawyers say protection for Chinese customers will suffer. 

Explore the issues

Privacy and data protection are two interrelated Internet governance issues. Data protection is a legal mechanism that ensures privacy. Privacy is usually defined as the right of any citizen to control their own personal information and to decide about it (to disclose information or not). Privacy is a fundamental human right. It is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights conventions. The July 2015 appointment of the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age reflects the rising importance of privacy in global digital policy, and the recognition of the need to address privacy rights issues the the global, as well as national levels.

The human rights basket includes online aspects of freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, rights of people with disabilities and women’s rights online. Yet, other human rights come into place in the realm of digital policy, such as children’s rights, and rights afforded to journalists and the press.

The same rights that people have offline must also be protected online is the underlying principle for human rights on the Internet, and has been firmly established by the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council resolutions.

Cloud computing could be described as the shift from storing data on hard disks on our computers to servers in the clouds (i.e., huge server farms). Cloud computing offers ubiquitous access to all our data and services from any device anywhere around the world (where there is Internet connection).

Several international instruments guarantee the right to freedom of expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that this right includes the freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. The Internet, with the opportunity it offers people to express themselves, is seen as an enabler of the exercise of this particular human right. Although these freedoms are guaranteed in global instruments and in national constitutions, in some countries freedom of expression is often curtailed through online censorship or filtering mechanisms, imposed by states, often for political reasons.

 

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