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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Anyone else get the ‘wry smile’ response from this?

I found this interesting:

Apple Inc has begun storing personal data for some Chinese users on servers provided by China Telecom, marking the first time that the company has stored user data on mainland Chinese soil. Apple attributed the move to an effort to improve the speed and reliability of its service. It also represents a departure from the policies of some technology companies, notably Google Inc, which has long refused to build data centres in China due to censorship and privacy concerns.

Now I can certainly see why making it easy for the ghastly Chinese authorities to spy on people would be undesirable, but I wonder… where to locate the data centres then? Presumably not in the USA or UK if state access to people’s data is the big problem right, right? ;-)

13 comments to Anyone else get the ‘wry smile’ response from this?

  • Bob sykes

    Puts a new twist on that original 1984 ad, doesn’t it.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Iceland? Not a place whose government needs to play nicely with others, and it has some practical advantages:

    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-03-28/iceland-data-center-hub

  • Alsadius

    The problem with Iceland is it’s in the middle of the ocean. You generally want to build local, to minimize ping.

  • Alsadius

    (Addendum: If you’re only building one, Iceland is a reasonable choice. Apple probably has dozens, so they can put them closer to people)

  • Jacob

    Why not put the data of Americans on Chinese servers and vice-versa?

  • Runcie Balspune

    “Positioning data centres as close to customers as possible means faster service.”

    I’ve worked in IT for 30 years, whilst microsecond algorithmic trading would possibly benefit from this, I call b*llshit on anyone thinking this would make any visible difference for a smart phone or wireless user. This is a cost issue, nothing more.

  • For gamers ping is also extremely important, but yes I agree, it is most likely a cost issue.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    If speed is important, that’s one thing: but here the question is data security and I have some faith in the ability of Icelanders to be morosely difficult towards the World’s big boys. They did put their top bankers in jail, after all.

  • Incunabulum

    Unfortunately, recent court decisions in the US means that there’s *no* place beyond state reach for US companies.

    If the US government can order Microsoft to turn over data stored in Ireland, under the theory that the company is US based and should have to obey US law (even though, to my knowledge, they wouldn’t have to turn over *physical* property stored in another country) then there’s not really a leg to stand on when another country demands the same of their local branch.

  • Incunabulum: indeed. In fact there are companies using the fact they are completely non-US and use no US services as a marketing point now. Other make a point that they only comply with local court orders and use open source software for extra security, for example MyKolab.

  • RRFox

    1. Storing the data in China was a China government requirement.
    2. As someone working in the networking industry, it is more efficient to store data locally. Long haul halfway around the world is subject to latency and bandwidth restrictions, not to mention firewalls, busy routers, net outages and other things slowing data down.
    3. Apple stores personal data encrypted on it’s servers. The encryption keys are stored only on the phone. Getting access to the clear server data is difficult. So, (depending upon your paranoid and trust levels), Apple says they can’t read the server data, so no one else can. Storing it locally is a big win for them and their customers. I want to know what will happen when the government asks for the encryption keys and Apple just shrugs. Apple can get information but they require the physical phone and a court order. They published this information a few months ago along with counts of how many times the’ve been requested to do so.

  • Julie near Chicago

    RRFox, that’s very interesting info and explains why certain of my preferred sites so often take so long to load.

    Out of sheer curiosity, have you a links to Apple’s published information and counts of requests as mentioned in your last sentence? If so, would you please share? Thanks. :>)

  • William O. B'Livion

    but I wonder… where to locate the data centres then?

    The first answer is “it doesn’t matter”. If you have offices in a jurisdiction that has some sort of respect for privacy then you store it there. That office then becomes your backup head office when you decide you want your corporation to die on the stand of privacy protection (you’re not a publicly traded company I hope).

    Otherwise it doesn’t matter WHERE you store the data because when presented with an official and legal government request for data you will either (a) hand it over, or (b) risk your company fighting it. If you’re doing business in some place like China you have the decision to follow local business practices (try to bribe your way out of it, and when that fails comply with the order), or you shut down operations and write off the country. Otherwise you’ll find your people and your networks harassed, you might wind up in jail and your business is going to suffer.

    Technically the answer is easy (and possibly patented):

    Establish datacenters across several jurisdictions.

    Encrypt the data, then split it at the bit or byte level across n datacenters sorted by users such that you can recover the whole file or all the data with n-x copies.

    Have load balanced front ends into this redundant, encrypted storage located in several jurisdictions, preferably with some sort of regional caching for speed.

    Don’t store keys AT ALL.

    Then you *can’t* produce the data, but you can hand over encrypted slices.

    Which will make you feel SO much better when you’re sitting in jail.

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