Published: Tue, August 01, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

Apple Takes Down VPN Apps From China App Store; Developers Express Dismay

Apple Takes Down VPN Apps From China App Store; Developers Express Dismay

The tech company removed several virtual private network services from its app store there.

Apple has bowed down and has removed VPN services in the country.

However, the VPN apps will remain available to users from the different place's App Store by placing their billing address to be outside China's territory.

Apple however has also stated the apps would continue to function normally in those countries and regions where local laws do not prohibit the use of VPNs. Apple's latest removal of VPN apps is undoubtedly a part of the national crackdown.

But Apple countered and said it was legally required to remove them, because they did not comply with current regulations.

If Apple refused to keep the government happy, the decision could prompt Beijing to try to block individual downloads of VPN apps from the App Store, said Adam Segal, a cybersecurity and China scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Internet censorship in China restricts communications about nasty topics including democracy, Tibetan freedom, and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The law will take effect on November 1.

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Overseas services have also been increasingly targeted as the country moves to tighten control on the internet. But now some of those policies are affecting Apple, one of the few remaining USA tech giants with a presence in the country - and the issue is raising questions about Apple's moral standing around the world. ExpressVPN claimed Apple was "aiding China's censorship effort".

Currently, some of the world's most popular websites, including Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, as well as a number of online media, are blocked in China. Censors forced Apple to shut down its online book and film stores just six months after launching, the New York Times reported previous year, citing sources.

While China is not a major market for Amazon, the company has been in the country for a long time and has been pushing its cloud computing services there. VPNs and proxy websites are now inaccessible if the user does not have enough evidence of legal age or even a passport. However, it is fair to say that Apple has many reasons to be cautious of suffering from Beijing's wrath.

Unfortunately, China may be teaching a lesson to countries that purport to support free speech and individual rights of privacy by showing that a firm stance and regulatory power can be wielded to restrict access to tools that have a legitimate objective.

Earlier in July, to comply with China's Cybersecurity Law, Apple announced it would open its first data center in China.

"Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said "accessibility is a human right".

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