back to article Apple: Er, yes. Your iCloud stuff is now on Google's servers, too

If you chose the Apple ecosystem because you don't, for whatever reason, trust Google – bad news. Apple has confirmed for the first time that it now uses Google servers to store chunks of people's iCloud data. Apple has used Amazon Web Services and Microsoft's Azure to host iCloud documents since 2011. Spreading chunks of …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That kinda surprises me. I would have thought a company the size of Apple and being cash rich they would have built their own cloud and sold it to others themselves, knowing apple they would then have forced any apps to use their iCloud. I also doubt Apple wouldn't use their own encryption on data stored on other peoples clouds, it's common sense to ensure your data is secure.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      But Apple would have to run the cloud on their own machines - since they don't sell real computers anymore that would be one hell of a lot of Macbooks!

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Plus all their old Mac Servers would be increasingly creaky by now, wouldn't they?

        1. ratfox Silver badge

          I'm not really buying that Google would spy on the data, but in any case I'm pretty sure that Apple is indeed encrypting the data...

          Of course, you never know who has the key, and accidents/bug happen. But then again if you worry a lot about your data, you don't use any cloud.

      2. Tim99 Silver badge
        Gimp

        @Yet Another Anonymous coward

        If they wanted the hassle, I'm pretty sure that Intel would sell them a lot of bare-bones rack servers without the pretty panels etc., and then they could run some Darwin/BSD hybrid using some of their own code base. Might it be something to do with the large chunk of "cash" that Google pay Apple to have Google search etc., on the Mac/Pad/iPhone?

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Things like data protection laws always make it tricky.

      They would have to have a substantial presence in all the major jurisdictions and make sure the data doesn't cross international boundaries (except as required by users).

      Apple were never able to give me a data protection guarantee on where their data is stored... guess I know why now. Google, Microsoft and Amazon have always been able to do that, but if you use all three, who knows where things might be?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They used to be a big (but discrete) EMC customer. IIRC the music/video was partly run on a series of EMC VMAX installations at very large scale. ~2012

      1. Korev Silver badge

        At a similar time I was told that they were big Isilon customers. I guess a company that size could use both though.

    4. DougS Silver badge

      Apple DOES use their own encryption

      As usual when it comes to Apple, El Reg is at best misleading when it comes to their headlines. You can peruse the iOS security guide PDF Apple helpfully makes available if you want proof.

      I agree it is odd they are using anyone's cloud at this point. What the heck are they using that billion dollar datacenter in North Carolina for, and the several other giant datacenters they have? Those are all for iMessage, app store, Apple Music etc.?

      The only thing I can think of is that Google has a lot more datacenters all over the world, so it is better connectivity (i.e. lower latency) access than Apple could provide from their limited set of datacenters that are mostly in the US.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: As usual when it comes to Apple

        As opposed to who exactly? Who is it that you think El Reg is favourable to? They always seem balanced in their disdain for all of the big players.

        Which to my mind makes you, DougS, a bit of an Apple fanboy.....

        1. DougS Silver badge

          @sabroni

          I never said they don't do the same to many companies, but claiming they do it ALL is a bit of a reach. They have their favored ones that get a bit of a kid glove treatment. Look at how they fawn over SpaceX, for instance.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Apple DOES use their own encryption

        Business continuity planning...or group think...we're too big to fail and so are Google...the banking crisis was supposed to have taught business something useful.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PMSL

    Sorry, but I've never really bought the whole "I don't use <x> because of, <y> are better " as a reason for eschewing <x> in favour of <y>.

    As far as I am concerned they are *all* the same. If you don't like that, you either drop out of modern life. Make yourself a dinner-party pest, or (most obviously) mitigate it as you would any other irritation. Because it's not going away.

    1. m0rt Silver badge

      Re: PMSL

      "Make yourself a dinner-party pest"

      I am probably that person.... :(

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PMSL

      Agreed, it's why I don't use the internet these days.

    3. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: PMSL

      Yep. Either tell me WHAT to use and WHY or don't bring it up.

      The answer is always Owncloud/Nextcloud, which is fine but hardly a replacement for a globally available network.

      1. psychonaut

        Re: PMSL

        how is owncloud? i was looking at that a while ago but got sidetracked. any good?

        1. TonyJ Silver badge

          Re: PMSL

          @psychonaut - well not sure why you got the downvote for asking a question, but hey ho.

          I ran owncloud for a while but switched to seafile. For some reason, at random I'd get data corruption on owncloud and could never track down why.

          But also seafile can do delta based synch whereas owncloud was always a full file copy if part of it changed - that may have changed since I last used it but it was on their support site back then as being something they had no plans to integrate.

          1. psychonaut

            Re: PMSL

            thanks tonyj, much appreciated.

            and yes, a downvote for asking for advice. could have been dr syntax as i cant be arsed to capitalise or use ' for forums...and as we all know, this is akin to being a nazi! i mean really....anyways....and dont mention downvotes! you will get downvoted! like this post will be. and then your life will END man, it will fucking END! a downvote! oh ! no! aaarghjhhh! the world is full of fucking narcissists... when you've got 2 kids and a mortgage, and another mortgage, and a roofer that you are sueing, a business to run.and learnign German. i mean, its not as bad as a post you put on facebook that doesnt get any likes. thats real death of the soul there. proper tears. jesus. ffs. oooh.

            unless its the russians. russian trolls, right here! on the reg! bastards!

            ahem. anyway.

            i think i will steer clear of own cloud then! thanks for the heads up.

            not even heard of sea file. will google....

            Muchly appreciated Sir.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Re: PMSL

      Drop out of modern life and mitigate as I would with any other irritant. Only thing connected to the internet anymore (thanks Meltdown & Spectre) are the tablets. Both immune to both vulnerabilities although a Neon-lit target for any other Android vulnerabilities so it's a wash. Already heading that way when this shit hit the fan. And, removed everything from "the Cloud" as who knows when it might be safe to poke my head above the parapet. Probably never.

      Now that new/old Nokia looks interesting enough, and stupid enough, that I might actually use it. Guess we have now hit the second cyclic trend in American life. Buying things for what they don't have.

  3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    iCloud to China as well

    Apple also said it is moving all it's Chinese customers iCloud data & encryption keys to severs in China so the Chinese government can snoop on it all.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/apple-to-start-putting-sensitive-encryption-keys-in-china-1519497574

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: iCloud to China as well

      Not much choice - either do that or pull out of China.

  4. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Redundancy

    "The encrypted chunks of the file are stored, without any user-identifying information, using third-party storage services, such as S3 and Google Cloud Platform."

    The question is whether those chunks are dependent on each other, and what error recovery schemes are applicable. If one chunk held on an S3 server, say, is lost or corrupted, what parts of your iCloud backup are now unsalvageable?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Redundancy

      Clouds like S3 and Google's have their own redundancy, so Apple doesn't need to add more on top of it. That would be like saying "what if your EMC array fails, do you have another EMC array to mirror to?"

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: Redundancy

        A company's QA philosphy will be an important factor in deciding "who to trust" with chunks of your data. One of the beauties of QA is (in this case) the ability to trust data stored elsewhere. Does that "elsewhere" subscribe to the same QA philosophy that you do? Yes: that's fine, I trust you. But if not then you are advised to overlap your chunking with other hosts - hosts that you know are unconnected with the host that is untrusted. And so it goes. These QA policies need to give some specifics about where data is stored - not unreasonable given data protection laws.

      2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Redundancy

        @DougS

        "That would be like saying "what if your EMC array fails, do you have another EMC array to mirror to?""

        Yes, actually. Controller failure is something that I factor in. I've had cause to implement the recovery plan in the past too.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Redundancy

          Please tell me how you convinced your boss that you needed a second identical vMax to mirror the first? EMC arrays are resilient to controller failure, a typical SAN has dual paths so it is resilient to HBA failure on the host. What you're talking about isn't what I said at all.

          1. Mark 65 Silver badge

            Re: Redundancy

            Please tell me how you convinced your boss that you needed a second identical vMax to mirror the first?

            At a rough guess I'd say "if DC1 gets hit by a natural disaster we'd need one in DC2 so we can operate a full failover".

            Your question seems a little like asking "why do we have two data centres, one of which spends quite a bit of time doing relatively little? Surely one is enough?"

      3. vistisen

        Re: Redundancy

        Actually yes, its called a two site solution.

  5. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Apple used Azure to power iCloud?

    Oh dear.

    Call Alanis Morissette.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Bah!

      Alanis Morissette? I don't get it...

      (then again I don't like her "music", nor 'that whiny style' from the 90's in particular, so maybe that's why I don't get it)

      But since Apple (apparently) isn't a cloud provider, they gotta use SOMEBODY's cloud server...

      /me thinks that if you store your data [strongly] encrypted, such that ONLY YOU have the decrypt key, then it could be stored in a publically viewable place and STILL be secure.

      [then it wouldn't matter who snoops or subpoena's your data, it will be worthless to them]

      Or, just don't 'iCloud' anything. There's an invention called an SD card. you could store things on THAT, instead.

      1. 2Nick3 Bronze badge
        Coat

        Re: Bah!

        Isn't it IRONIC he didn't get the Alanis Morissette reference?

        (Mine is the faded old Army jacket with a CD-Walkman in the pocket...)

      2. Korev Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: Bah!

        Alanis Morissette? I don't get it...

        Mr Byrne’s take on it

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Roopee
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Mr Byrne’s take on it

          Many thanks for that - now I know who both Ed Byrnes AND Alannis Morrisette are! Ed is much the funnier! Incidentally when I clicked the link I thought it was probably a reference to 'Stop Making Sense' (Talking Heads) but it was even better.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        don't 'iCloud' anything

        "Or, just don't 'iCloud' anything. There's an invention called an SD card. you could store things on THAT, instead."

        LOL, how are you getting on inserting THAT SD card into your iPhone? No, that's the SIM tray dear.

        1. David Nash Silver badge

          Re: don't 'iCloud' anything

          SD Card in iPhone?

          I think that was one of the points. Use a different phone, store stuff locally.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple privacy policy

    Clearly says they may share data, if you compare apple and Google privacy policies, its impossible to spot much in the way of any difference. If anything, apples is harder to read which gives them an edge in user perception of privacy, but its not real privacy.

  7. Thomas Wolf

    "If you chose the Apple ecosystem because you don't trust Google – bad news." Some/many choose Apple not because they don't trust Google's infrastructure, but because of what they do with the data. Just because AAPL uses Google (or Azure or AWS) as a big honking, distributed disk doesn't mean Google gets its hands on decrypted data.

    Apple's just being smart: as with their hardware suppliers, they're letting cloud providers compete against each other to get Apple the best price for what is essentially a commodity by now.

    As an aside, I thought I read a year or so ago that this is all temporary as Apple is building out its own server farms. Aren't some of their services already on Apple servers (e.g. the App Store, videos, music, etc.?)

    1. Dr Mantis Toboggan
      FAIL

      https://www.apple.com/uk/legal/privacy/en-ww/

      "You may be asked to provide your personal information anytime you are in contact with Apple or an Apple affiliated company. Apple and its affiliates may share this personal information with each other and use it consistent with this Privacy Policy. They may also combine it with other information to provide and improve our products, services, content, and ADVERTISING. "

      I changed only the case of that last word. If you think apple aren't harvesting and selling your anonymous data, the same as Google do, you are a fool and Apple truly deserves you.

      1. DenTheMan

        Don't worry

        .. you pretty little heads about it.

        Or should that be 'very little'?

    2. DougS Silver badge

      I wondered why Apple doesn't have their own cloud yet either, but I wonder if it has to do with connectivity for low latency access. Google has a lot more datacenters in a lot more locations, while Apple's are mostly in the US. Even in the US the large majority of people are probably closer in ping latency to a Google datacenter than one of Apple's.

    3. rh587 Bronze badge

      As an aside, I thought I read a year or so ago that this is all temporary as Apple is building out its own server farms. Aren't some of their services already on Apple servers (e.g. the App Store, videos, music, etc.?)

      Apple run their own substantial CDN for servicing things like Apple Music, software updates and App Store downloads. A redditor who claimed to be a Google Engineer (yes yes, make of that what you will) reckoned they're more or less just using S3 and Google Cloud as dumb storage for encrypted blobs. This gives them a modicum of diversity/redundancy and allows them to play off suppliers for $/TB whilst also offering superior performance in regions where AWS/Google have Data Centres but Apple don't (yet).

      Unless anyone has cracked AES256 (or Apple foul up spectacularly and lose everyone's private keys), it's not something we should be terribly concerned about.

  8. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    But...

    What are all those Apple Solar/Renewable powered DC's doing then?

    I think El Reg should ask Apple....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But...

      Beard trimmers and latte makers, they sure do use a lot of power.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: But...

        "Beard trimmers and latte makers"

        you don't need a beard trimmer THAT often - just when you need to make a public appearance. Like "when do you need to shower" or "when do you need to change clothes". [my underwear is itchy, time to change it - ha ha ha ha ha]

        /me wonders if it's actually 'that way' inside the cubes at Apple. Heh.

        Oh, and latte is too weak. Cappuccino or Espresso [or Jolt] and don't forget powering the mini-fridges.

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: But...

          "[my underwear is itchy, time to change it - ha ha ha ha ha]"

          Underwear, I've heard of it. Isn't it that fancy lace stuff they wear in that Victoria's Secret magazine? Oh, that's a catalogue, you are supposed to buy underwear? None of it will ever fit me.

          "when do you need to shower"

          I have a shower once a year, whether I need it or not.

          Jolt FTW.

  9. Nexus1974

    Strange, whats their huge data centers for then

    That North Carolina data center is massive.

    Is that not for iCloud and iTunes etc. Possible their slowly migrating off of AWS/Google onto their own platforms, they do have a lot of users mind.

    Article does mention that all the data is encrypted by Apple so doubt Google/Amazon would be able to gain anything from the data anyway.

    1. Nate Amsden Silver badge

      Re: Strange, whats their huge data centers for then

      Was going to say the same thing, can only guess that they haven't been willing to devote resources to make the storage stuff yet.

      https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2017/08/apples-next-us-data-center-will-be-built-in-iowa/

      https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/17/apple-to-boost-data-center-capex-by-10-billion.html

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Strange, whats their huge data centers for then

        And the provisional one in West Ireland... What are these all for, anyone know???

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Strange, whats their huge data centers for then

          They need datacenters for iMessage, the App Store, iTunes / Apple Music, Siri, etc.

          It is either a lack of capacity (they need what they have for the above) or because Google has so many more datacenters all over the world it makes iCloud work better (lower latency) than if they used their comparatively much smaller number of datacenters. Obviously Apple has the money to build as many as they want, but not having the needs of Google building that many datacenters would be wasteful when they can contract it out to someone who already has that infrastructure. Apple controls the encryption, so having it sit in Google's cloud doesn't mean Google can get at iCloud data, despite El Reg's misleading headline.

  10. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Clever move by the beancountery types.

    Offload your data to somebody else, and get rid of your data centres (and its associated headaches etc).

    Let your competition handle the load for you, and charge your users a pretty penny for data storage etc.

    Moar profits. And if somebody (FBI etc) want access to data, they got more hurdles to clear.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So, what do they level Irish woods for?

      Just to pay less taxes?

  11. Brex

    No surprises there

    After all, it's the Chief Social Activist we are talking about here - lots of "diversity"-driven moral posturing, little action, zero innovation.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google Stasi

    Anyone else regularly get emails from people they barely know containing confidential info and documents 'ABOUT-YOU' - from a * Gmail * email address..... WTF low-hanging-fruit internet-users, who said this was ok???

    It might be just a sports club you half-signed-up to years ago and forgot about, or a property management company in the apartment complex where you live that never sent anything before except paper flyers etc...

    Either way, this is all great news to the ** Google Stasi ** who want to know everything about you, so they can sell it on! People think they're comfortable with that, that they know what it means. Yet every year, tech sociopaths cross the creepy line even further. US elections Cambridge Analytics, hello!

    Google isn't satisfied with web ads. They want to know every last data-perv detail about you, your personal and work-life, your family's, including kids. so that they can crunch it all into a behavioral super-profile and sell this to every corporation you will ever cross paths with in physical or digital life!

    The article below tries to capture it, but misses. Google-Facebook et al know more than our families and friends do about us. That's Stasi-esque!

    ------------------------

    Opening our digital door to welcome in tech-Stasi police - “Our blind acceptance and compliance with technologies means that the people who know us best – what we like, want, prefer, aspire to be – are not our governments but Google and Facebook.” - Solutionism is the now rampant belief that all “problems” have technological solutions. Google glasses, self-driving cars, smartphone apps that monitor the efficiency of our exercise, the calories in our food and the quality of our REM sleep – all smilingly assure us that they will make our lives frictionless and trouble-free in this algorithm-driven new world order. Welcome to Stepfordia. - - Famine, poverty and disease? We have an app for that. - And just when did giant tech companies, themselves masters in cutting their tax bill to a bare minimum, get to lecture us about behavioural correction? -

    There is though a substantially bigger issue at play here – a political dimension to Solutionism. Many of the “problems” being sold to us by digital technologies aren’t really problems at all – unless you count the burning need to know how many steps you take each day a problem. - Our blind acceptance and compliance with technologies means that the people who know us best – what we like, want, prefer, aspire to be – are not our governments but Google and Facebook. And it is here that Solutionism becomes the neo-liberals’ wet dream by offloading the concerns of government (our welfare and well-being) to individuals and their private means.

    As Morozov says: “I have no problem with technological solutions to social problems. The key question for me is, who gets to implement them and what kinds of politics of reform do technological solutions smuggle through the backdoor”.

    ------------------------

    https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/opening-our-digital-door-to-welcome-in-tech-stasi-police-1.3155208

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Google is committed to protecting your privacy'

    They actually say this in account settings.... What ball out lies!

    If your workplace forces Google on you, you're totally screwed

  14. tempemeaty
    Big Brother

    Apple? Just Another Scorpion...

    If Apple can perform a nice "Back Stab" like this I wouldn't be surprised if they cut other corners too. That compromises their customers data security.

    Now that I finally have another PC and Linux back again. I can just not care anymore hopefully. It feels so empowering to not have one of the many backstabbing scorpions in Silicon Valley as my sole OS maker/maintainer now.

    Go ahead Apple. Show the world what Silicon Valley's tech corps really are...

  15. Archivist

    Storage is just a commodity

    I really didn't think they'd be using a meeelion rack-mounted Mac Minis!

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: a meeelion rack-mounted Mac Minis

      OMG they will not get past the "B" in Bonjour, never mind doing anything useful.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple Data Centres : The Truth ;-)

    It's obvious that the new Apple data centres are designed to allow the digitised consciousness of Steve Jobs to finally be properly reconstructed and run Apple in perpetuity.

    Up until now, they've had to rely on dumping the vast amounts of data out via iOS/MacOS updates, with the balance made up with cloud storage.

    Which has led to sub-optimal decision making and the iPhone X.

    Once they've got Digi-Jobs back in house on high speed high capacity servers, they can then work.on his resurrection.

    To anyone who's seen the film "13 Ghosts", there's no surprise Apple HQ features so much glass...

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge

      Re: Apple Data Centres : The Truth ;-)

      It's obvious that the new Apple data centres are designed to allow the digitised consciousness of Steve Jobs to finally be properly reconstructed and run Apple in perpetuity.

      Perhaps if they actually did this their quality control wouldn't be so damned shite. Cook isn't even "a poor man's Steve Jobs".

  17. Sil

    Isn't AES-128 encryption a joke nowadays ?

  18. imaginarynumber

    Duplicitous tossers

    "Apple makes much of the fact that its business model doesn't require it to aggregate personal data as Google does"

    Or- Apple makes healthy enough profits to negate the need to sniff customers' data but is so fecking greedy that they do it for fun.

    What was iAds? Apple bragged that they knew what apps punters used, when they used them and how they used them. They even let advertisers target ifans based upon the muzak that they listened to.

    Apple might not be as intrusive as Google or MS but they are the kings of sleight of hand and mass bullshit.

    I am waiting for them to release the iSofa. A 2.252 person seater that syphons away the lose change that falls out of your pockets each night.

  19. Cuddles Silver badge

    Shocking

    I heard parts of their phones are made by Samsung as well!

  20. DCFusor Silver badge
    FAIL

    Doesn't add up

    If Apple is using their own encryption to keep your data "safe" while using other data centers "to reduce latency/ping time, then where must the decryption actually get done and who has access to the keys....???

    Yeah, right. It'd all have to go through their data centers on the first and last hop, else the entire encryption is utterly bogus. And even then, with traffic analysis, well, metadata is hard to secure. If they have you going direct to a 3rd party (assuming your iproduct holds the key) then metadata is easy to take.

    So...I smell something I need to put my hip waders on for.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The first rule of selling stuff to Apple

    Is that you NEVER talk about selling stuff to Apple, .... or AWS, or Facebook, or Google for that matter, from my experience anyone who says what any of those guys have in their datacenters either no longer works at that vendor, or has only ever heard it 2nd or 3rd hand and usually has it wrong by a large amount.

    If and when those behemoths decide to buy something from a vendor, they usually buy a metric butt-tonne of the stuff, and then say "but if you tell anyone that will be the last order you ever get, we are VERY protective of our brand equity, and you're not allowed to get any of it".

    They're also all remarkably good at running infrastructure at massive scale, and tend to not put all their eggs into one basket. Instead they identify the blast radius of every basket, and isolate themselves against technical, geophysical, political and business risks by keeping their eggs (data) in multiple baskets. One shouldn't be surprised if they spread their risk across multiple vendors and service providers.

    Most people who assume the cloud is completely stitched together out of commodity hardware and open source software and that it's all about dog-eat-dog competition and reducing costs in a cut-throat race to the bottom, would be shocked to find out the level of co-operation and resource sharing that happens between the giant SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS players and exactly how much specialised and proprietary hardware and software lives in those datacenters..

    Signed - Anonymous Coward for obvious reasons.

  22. PghMike

    Data is encrypted, so why is this even interesting?

    The article says that the data is encrypted, as does Apple's own articles. So, google isn't going to be mining it for personal data. Google is just providing storage for opaque bits.

  23. Robert Morgan

    I don't think this is a major one at all. My feel on it is they likely either use AWS/Azure/GCP for regional purposes - i.e. if you're in a far-reaching region, it's easier to use their reach rather than build local DCs. The alternative of course is that they're just using it as a form of backup or cold-store data archiving.

    If it's heavily encrypted at rest and in transport and relevant controls around access are taken into account says keys only ever reside in a vault on Apples side, then their isn't an issue at all.

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