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.”