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Obama weighs in as China demands access to data services provided by U.S. companies


President Obama has publicly criticized China’s plans to expand ‘security’ policies that would effectively prevent U.S. tech companies like Apple selling their products in China without completely compromising data security.

Reuters reports that the Chinese government plans to require foreign tech companies to host in China all data servers used by their products, and to allow the government access to the data. As this would include iCloud backups, this would provide the Chinese government with complete access to all data stored on iPhones and iPads sold in China.

In an interview with Reuters, Obama said he was concerned about Beijing’s plans for a far-reaching counterterrorism law that would require technology firms to hand over encryption keys, the passcodes that help protect data, and install security “backdoors” in their systems to give Chinese authorities surveillance access … 

The new law would expand on existing requirements that foreign companies hand over source code for tech products sold to Chinese banks–a demand which the U.S. government has condemned as violating trade agreements.

President Obama told Reuters that he has told China that the new requirements would be completely unacceptable to American companies.

“This is something that I’ve raised directly with President Xi,” Obama said. “We have made it very clear to them that this is something they are going to have to change if they are to do business with the United States.”

The laws “would essentially force all foreign companies, including U.S. companies, to turn over to the Chinese government mechanisms where they can snoop and keep track of all the users of those services,” Obama said.

“As you might imagine tech companies are not going to be willing to do that,” he said. 

The relationship between the U.S. and China has long been an uneasy one, with the tech sector a particular battleground. Most of Apple’s products are made in China, but the country has used both security scares and regulatory barriers in an attempt to limit Apple’s rapidly-growing sales there.

The latest proposed law was first drafted last year, but as yet has no date for implementation. Reuters says that it become law within “weeks or months.”

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  1. 89p13 - 8 years ago

    Wait Just A Cotton Pickin’ Minute: Aren’t Obama and the British PM and the NSA and the FBI and the head of every 3 letter acronym decrying Apple’s encryption – and no “Back Door” entry for these agencies – and Apple’s refusal to bend, yet now they’re saying that China’s demands will compromise the integrity of these same devices?

    Talk out of both sides of your mouth much, Mr. President (and every other Government official)?

    Pot — Meet the Kettle!

    • rettun1 - 8 years ago

      I agree, though it’s unfortunate you started off with “cotton picking minute”… Kind of delegitimizes you in my mind

      • 89p13 - 8 years ago

        It’s a reflection of my age and upbringing! And that’s all it is.

    • Walter A. (@freediverx) - 8 years ago

      “Pot — Meet the Kettle!”

      Damn, you beat me to it!

    • Obama doesn’t speak as harshly about the NSA and US policy because he knows talking about the policies of another country aren’t likely to get him killed.

  2. Margaret Vasilchik - 8 years ago


  3. Gregory Wright - 8 years ago

    Okay, so how is what China trying do any different than what the US Patriot Act allows. I do realize in the US there is oversight but essentially government snooping is snooping nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong I am a supporter of government surveillance in the US. I take issue with the US telling other countries what they should or should not be doing.

    • nonyabiness - 8 years ago

      On one hand you realize that at least oversight is here in the U.S., but then say “snooping is snooping.” Which is it? In the U.S. we know how to have dialogue and have the freedom to say what we want and what we believe in/for. In the U.S. we can rally together and challenge our government when they get out of hand. In the U.S. We do not control online information that its citizens are privy to. Additionally, China is a tech RIVAL- should we hand them the keys so they can copy our innovations even easier? Think first; comment last.


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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