30 September 2010

Apple confirms that MY cloud is in the USA

A few weeks ago, I complained that I wanted to know where MY MobileMe cloud was geo-located. You can read my post here. After I posted the article, I decided to do the simple thing and ask Apple.

So I logged on to Apple's technical support page for MobileMe, opened a chat session with one of their support technicians, and asked "Where is my MobileMe Cloud?". I gave her a link to my article to explain the question a little better. The Apple support person was very polite, and freely admitted that my question was very unusual. What followed was about 30 minutes of very little chat while (I assume) she asked around trying to find the answer.

Eventually, she admitted that she did not know the geo-location of the server or servers that were used to process my data. When I explained that my curiosity was driven by concerns about legal compliance, she suggested that I contact the Apple legal group with my odd question.

So I wrote to Apple's European privacy compliance email and explained what I wanted to know. I received a very fast and courteous reply.

I was informed that my database (contacts, calendar appointments, etc) is held and processed on servers that are geo-located in the USA. Apple's representative was keen to point out, however, that this location might change in future as the MobileMe service grows and is modified.

In a follow-up email, I asked if data for ALL MobileMe customers globally is processed on servers geo-located in the USA. The Apple representative said that he could only answer definitively for data related to European customers.

So there we have it. My MobileMe cloud, my so-called "home on the Web", is in fact located in the USA.

(By the way, as Apple's privacy compliance person was quick to point out Apple has signed up to the US Safe Harbour scheme which is a method for US companies to comply with certain aspects of European data protection law. I am NOT in any way suggesting that Apple has done anything wrong by taking my data to the USA. I merely wanted to get to the bottom of my unusual little question. There are other reasons - not related to data protection law - that a person might want to know this. I'll save that discussion for another day.)