The deal, said to be worth up to $600m, sees users’ iCloud data hosted with Apple’s top competitor in the mobile arena
Apple has confirmed it stores iCloud data from desktop and mobile devices on Google-operated servers, the first time it’s publicly acknowledged a formal cloud arrangement with the search giant.
In publicly available iOS security documentation updated in January, Apple said it uses “third-party storage services, such as S3 and Google Cloud Platform” to store the data.
The document, last updated in March 2017, formerly also mentioned Microsoft’s Azure, but the change in language doesn’t necessarily indicate Apple has stopped using Azure.
At the time the deal was said to be worth between $400 million and $600m (£286m to £429m).
S3 is part of Amazon Web Services (AWS), the leading cloud infrastructure provider.
The fact that Apple has disclosed its cloud deal with Google only in an obscure reference document is unsurprising, since Apple is one of Google’s fiercest competitors in smartphones and other areas.
In 2015 Apple chief executive Tim Cook criticised Google for a business model that relies on mining users’ cloud data for “god-knows-what advertising purpose… We think, some day, customers will see this for what it is.”
At the time he said Apple believes “the customer should be in control of their own information”.
As far back as 2009 analysts pointed out that Apple and Google were competing head-on for revenues related to mobile data.
But the new document suggests Apple isn’t above making deals with rivals who employ such apparently questionable tactics when it suits its own ends.
Data centre buildout
In the passage that mentions Google Apple also goes into some detail on the AES-128-based encryption methods used to protect the user data stored with the likes of Amazon and Google. Apple says the data held with third parties doesn’t include personally identifiable information.
Apple uses the data centres for iCloud data as well as that from iTunes, the App Store and its Siri digital assistant.
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