Apple Goes Along With China's Latest VPN Crackdown

Apple Goes Along With China's Latest VPN Crackdown

Several VPN companies knocked the move, saying Apple may not fully realize what it has done by removing these apps.

Over the weekend, Apple removed 60 VPN apps from its App Store in China. While the company supports human rights and is an advocate for protecting privacy, it must also comply with local laws or face serious repercussions which could include blocking the entire App Store in China.

Sunday Yokubaitis, the president of Golden Frog, which makes VyprVPN, told The New York Times that their app had also been removed by Apple.

An Apple spokesperson confirmed the removal of apps that do not comply with the law from its China App Store, including services based outside the country.

ExpressVPN noted in their statement that their apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and some other platforms are still available in China. If you're unfamiliar with VPNs, the tools allow users to get around China's "Great Firewall" by making it look like they are actually surfing the Web from some other country. RIA news agency says that the law is only meant to block the unlawful content from reaching out to the public.

While Microsoft and Amazon both run cloud services in China, similar ones run by local Chinese internet rivals dwarf them in scale.

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Another victim of Apple's act is ExpressVPN which is a service provider from outside China.

"By setting up a data centre and pulling VPNs, (Apple) is sending a friendly signal to the Chinese government", said Liu Xingliang, head of the DCCI Internet Research Institute.

For many years VPN providers have played a cat and mouse game with Chinese regulators creating workarounds and introducing new servers to circumvent VPN blocks.

Now, 33 years after the year of 1984, are we going to see 2017 become a bit more like 1984 - with Apple's assistance? Weak sales of Apple's older, cheaper models, as well as premium customers waiting longer to upgrade to the next phone, have weighed on China revenue for the past few quarters.

With Russia announcing today it'll also ban VPNs enabling users to view banned sites, Apple could be seen as having set a precedent for giving in to repressive governments. The service lock-in to Apple hardware just isn't the same in China.

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 goal.

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