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Apple Hands over Its iCloud Accounts to Chinese Servicer

Apple announced that, starting on February 28, it will hand over its iCloud service for Chinese customers to a Chinese company. The company taking over the service is one that the Guizhou Provincial government owns called Guizhou Cloud Big Data (GCBD). GCBD will be responsible for the iCloud operations serving customers in China and also responsible for legal and financial relations with those customers.

This has triggered many concerns over data privacy. Chinese companies are known to share customer data with the government, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Apple has given China-based users the option of deleting their data, but no option to store their data any other place.

The company TechCrunch found that, when the iCloud setting is set to China, the accounts to be handed over will also include “iCloud accounts that were opened in the U.S., are paid for using U.S. dollars and/or are connected to U.S.-based App Store accounts.”

“One user did find an apparent way to opt-out. It requires such users to switch their iCloud account back to China, then sign out of all devices. They then switch their phone and iCloud settings to the U.S. Then, upon signing back into iCloud, their account will (supposedly) not be part of the migration.”

Sources:

1. People’s Daily, January 10, 2018
http://media.people.com.cn/n1/2018/0110/c40606-29755229.html
2. TechCruch.com, January 11, 2018
Apple’s China iCloud data migration sweeps up international user accounts

UDN: Mainland Government Tightened WeChat Conversation Monitoring

United Daily News (UDN), one of the primary Taiwanese news groups, recently reported that Mainland China has been tightening up its control of conversations made on the popular mobile chatting app WeChat. One recent example occurred after construction worker Chen posted a message regarding exiled businessman Guo Wengui’s comments on corrupt government officials. Four days later, the police detained him for five days. Another example was former sales person Wang, who used negative names when discussing current Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Chinese leader Chairman Mao on WeChat. Wang ended up being sentenced to 22 months in jail. The Chinese government has been improving its use of technology rapidly. The police have established advanced monitoring of communication channels such as WeChat, using not only sensitive word detection, but sensitive picture detection as well. A massive nationwide setup of video surveillance and facial recognition is also under way.

Source: United Daily News, December 11, 2017
https://udn.com/news/story/7332/2868268

China Conducted the First Head Transplant on Dead Bodies

Italian Neurosurgery specialist Sergio Canavero said that his team has performed the first head transplant in China by taking off the head from a dead body and connecting it to another dead body. The surgery took 18 hours and was successful.

Ren Xiaoping, a Chinese Professor at the Harbin Medical University, performed the surgery.

Canavero said earlier this year that he plans to conduct a head transplant in two years. He said this will lead to “living forever,” where people transplant their heads to younger bodies which were cloned from their original bodies.

Arthur Kaplan, a professor at New York University, who is strongly against organ harvesting, vehemently opposes this transplant practice. “The head transplant talk is like (the talks) from Mengele.” “It will be very brutal and definitely will bring disaster.”

Josef Mengele was a German Schutzstaffel officer and physician at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp during World War II. He used live humans to perform experiments to “improve the human race.”

“Canavero’s team said that the first transplant might be done using the body of a Chinese organ donor, because there is a higher chance of getting a Chinese organ donor.”

However, there have been accusations that the Chinese government conducts live organ harvesting using Falun Gong practitioners and political dissidents.

Ethan Gutmann, a human rights defender and former adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, believes that there are 500,000 to 1 million Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned in China and from 2000 to 2008, about 65,000 of them were already killed when the Chinese regime harvested their organs.

Source: BBC, November 23, 2017
http://www.bbc.com/zhongwen/simp/chinese-news-42100245

Microsoft Skype Removed from China’s App Stores

Well-known Chinese news site Sohu recently reported that both the Apple iOS version and the Google Android version of Microsoft’s Skype app have been removed from China’s app stores. Apple’s spokesperson explained that Skype does not meet China’s local VoIP (Voice-over-IP) laws, so Apple removed the app per the Chinese government’s requirement. The Google Play Android app store does not operate in China. However, multiple Chinese run Android app stores removed Skype as well. A Microsoft spokesperson commented that the removal is temporary and Microsoft is trying to restore the app and its service as soon as possible. At this point there is no known schedule for when Skype will be made available again in China.

Source: Sohu, November 22, 2017
http://www.sohu.com/a/205778180_114760

BBC Chinese: China’s “Internet Czar” Lu Wei under Investigation

BBC Chinese recently reported that the Central Discipline Inspection Commission of the Communist Party detained Lu Wei, the former Deputy Minister of the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party and Director of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs. Lu was detained for a corruption investigation. He was widely known as the Chinese “Internet Czar” and was in charge of China’s online censorship management. He initiated many critical actions to tighten up control of the Internet, such as blocking commercial websites from news editing rights, promoting self-regulation among well-known online public figures, bringing criminal charges against people who re-posted content that the government had banned, and strengthening the blockage of international websites such as Google, Twitter, and Wikipedia. Publicly Lu even refused to admit “bringing down” these international sites in China. However, while celebrating the fall of Lu, Chinese netizens remain widely concerned about China’s online censorship. Many said that this positive event may not fundamentally change China’s long-lasting censorship policies.

Source: BBC Chinese, November 22, 2017
http://www.bbc.com/zhongwen/simp/chinese-news-42077473

Sinchew: China Ranked at the Bottom in an Internet Freedom Study

Singapore Chinese newspaper Sinchew recently reported that the well-known American human rights group Freedom House just released its annual global Internet freedom report. The report showed that the global degree of freedom on the internet had shown a decline for seven consecutive years. For three years in a row China was found to be the worst country in the world in terms of online information control. The Freedom House study included 65 countries, covering 87 percent of the global online population. The report pointed out that Internet information played an important role in the elections in many countries and that political messages were heavily manipulated around the world. In 2017, (this control) impacted elections in at least 18 countries. The governments of more and more countries are following China and Russia to hire online “commentators” to use the Internet to manipulate public opinion. More and more governments are quietly influencing and suppressing different opinions via social media and social discussion groups. The Freedom House study found that, among the 65 countries in the scope of its research, 30 governments implemented online information manipulation and monitoring. Some governments expanded their operations beyond their own borders.

Source: Sinchew, November 15, 2017
http://www.sinchew.com.my/node/1701486

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