Apple Pulls VPN Apps From China App Store As Russia Signs Law Banning Their Use

mzlRussia has banned VPNs and other software that enables users to gain anonymous access to websites. The new law was signed by President Vladimir Putin on Monday and will come into effect on November 1st (via TechCrunch).

Leonid Levin, chairman of the Duma's committee on information policy and technology, was quoted by state-run media as saying that the new law is not targeted at "introducing new bans for law-abiding citizens" but aims to prohibit access to illegal content.

However, privacy advocates see the law as another way for the Russian government to restrict access to political content that it disagrees with. In 2015, it became mandatory for all user data from Russian citizens to be stored in Russian-based servers, and last year another law was passed making it necessary for internet service providers to retain traffic data for up to a year.

Recently the government also threatened to block access to the Telegram encrypted messaging platform unless the company that runs the app provides more information about itself.

Elsewhere, virtual private networks took another blow over the weekend, as reports emerged that Apple has removed the majority of VPN apps from the App Store in China, following regulations passed earlier in the year that require such apps to be authorized by the Chinese government.

The action was first revealed by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China. The company said in a blog post that "all major VPN apps" including its own had been removed from the App Store.

"We're disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China's censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties," ExpressVPN wrote on its blog.

The company shared a note from Apple explaining that its app was removed because "it includes content that is illegal in China". A few hours later, Apple issued a statement to TechCrunch explaining its decision to pull the apps from the App Store:

Earlier this year China’s MIIT announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government. We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.

Earlier this month, China reportedly started blocking some features of the WhatsApp messaging service, as authorities continued to tighten controls over the country's internet.

Update: During Apple's third quarter earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple pulled VPN apps in China due to China's renewed effort to enforce the policy that prohibits them.

"We would rather not remove apps, but like we do in other countries, we follow the law where we do business." Cook went on to say that he hopes China will ease up on the restrictions over time."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: China, Russia, VPN

Top Rated Comments

robjulo Avatar
55 months ago
Those things are only important to Tim until they affect the bottom line. He's had no problems dealing with dictatorships, countries that trample civil rights and rap stars who have abused women.

“Diversity” and “free expression” are only preached by Apple unless it’s NIMBY and the consumers keep coming, huh, Tim? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)
RudySnow Avatar
55 months ago
“Diversity” and “free expression” are only preached by Apple unless it’s NIMBY and the consumers keep coming, huh, Tim? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Zirel Avatar
55 months ago
Those things are only important to Tim until they affect the bottom line. He's had no problems dealing with dictatorships, countries that trample civil rights and rap stars who have abused women.
First uninformed comment of many,

It doesn’t matter if Tim removes them from the AppStore or not, the IP's will be blocked.

So, if Tim left the apps on the AppStore, Chinese costumers would have a lot of apps they simply cannot use in any way, even if they they (Apple) pay or not. In other words, you’ll be downloading a scam app.

But don’t mind me, keep hating, and buy an Android.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Markoth Avatar
55 months ago
We shouldn't even have open trade relations with them in the first place. The Chinese government has starkly different moral values from us, including many human rights violations which we somehow manage to ignore. I really don't get it.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nicho Avatar
55 months ago
BREAKING NEWS... two days ago.
[doublepost=1501503615][/doublepost]
Sorry, what is exactly the connection with "restrict access to political content that it disagrees with"? What political content is only available by VPN?
anything the government decides to otherwise block? incendiary videos on facebook or youtube or the like.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Krizoitz Avatar
55 months ago
“Diversity” and “free expression” are only preached by Apple unless it’s NIMBY and the consumers keep coming, huh, Tim? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
And what, pray tell, would you have Apple do? Tell China no? That may work in the US (for now at least) and other western countries where the leaders are constrained by the courts and rule of law, but in China they have no such option. If Apple doesn't remove the offending content, then the App Store in China goes dark, as well as Apple's ability to sell iPhones and other wares in China. Apple has no leverage over the Chinese government. There are plenty of alternatives for Chinese customers to buy in China, and I guarantee you Chinese citizens aren't going to try and topple their government just because they can't get an iPhone. Its unfortunate that Apple, or any company, is in this position, but thats the way the world is.

Apple DOES do a lot of privacy, speech, underrepresented groups. They have also pushed the envelope on improving treatment for factory workers in China. But they aren't all-powerful. Tim Cook can't tell President Ji Xingping what to do.

Educate yourself on the topic at hand and understand that this is a messy, complicated, and difficult situation.

"But what about Google, they walked away!"

Yes, and Apple COULD do that, and you can make an argument they should, but its not a slam dunk either way. What does walking away do? It doesn't change China. It doesn't push them towards a more open government. It just means someone else, either Samsung, or one of the many Chinese companies is selling more phones. And Google didn't actually walk away, they tried redirecting traffic to their Hong Kong site, which was partially successful for awhile, now its mostly blocked. But Google still has offices in China for R&D as well as Android sales, so they didn't bail either. Also, Google search was never big in China to begin with, Baidu is way more popular, so "pulling out" cost them very little.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

affinity designer contour tool

Serif Updates Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher With New Tools and Functions

Thursday February 4, 2021 1:58 am PST by
Serif today announced across-the-board updates for its popular suite of Affinity creative apps, including Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and the Apple award-winning Affinity Publisher for Mac, all of which were among the first professional creative suites to be optimized for Apple's new M1 chip. "After another year which saw record numbers of people switching to Affinity, it's exciting to...
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
maxresdefault

Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak Discuss iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, Privacy, Shortcuts on Mac, and More

Saturday June 12, 2021 6:12 am PDT by
As is tradition, Apple executives Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak joined Daring Fireball's John Gruber in an episode of The Talk Show to discuss several announcements that Apple made over this weeks WWDC, including iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and a large focus around privacy. Federighi kicks off the conversation discussing the common architecture, now thanks to Apple silicon, across all of...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
adobe photoshop sketch ipad

Adobe Removing Photoshop Sketch and Illustrator Draw From App Store in July

Saturday June 26, 2021 4:02 pm PDT by
Adobe this week reminded customers that its Photoshop Sketch and Illustrator Draw apps will no longer be available for download on iOS and Android starting July 19. Adobe plans to stop supporting the apps for existing users on January 10, 2022. In a support document, Adobe said users can easily migrate to its Fresco app, which combines many Photoshop Sketch and Illustrator Draw drawing and...
REC ASA CODE2016 20160601 205816 2745

Elon Musk Reportedly Demanded to Become Apple CEO as Part of Potential Tesla Acquisition [Update: Musk Denies]

Friday July 30, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly once demanded that he be made Apple CEO in a brief discussion of a potential acquisition with Apple's current CEO, Tim Cook. The claim comes in a new book titled "Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century," as reviewed by The Los Angeles Times. According to the book, during a 2016 phone call between Musk and Cook that touched on the possibility of ...
homepod feature blue2

Looking to Grab a HomePod Before They're Gone? These Retailers Still Have Stock

Monday March 15, 2021 6:54 am PDT by
Apple last week discontinued the original HomePod, marking just over three years on the market for the full-size smart speaker. If you're looking to purchase the larger HomePod before it's completely gone, there are still some options online today. The biggest retailer with remaining stock on the HomePod is Apple itself, which has the White HomePod for $299.00 on its website. Space Gray is...
september 2021 event ar logo

Apple's September 14 Event Page Features AR Logo on iPhone

Tuesday September 7, 2021 9:23 am PDT by
Apple this morning announced a digital-only event that will be held on Tuesday, September 14, and if you view the event webpage on an iPhone, you can tap on the logo to open up Apple's Safari AR viewer and you'll see the three-dimensional logo move in real-time in the real world. Just open up the event site on an ‌iPhone‌ or iPad and tap right on the logo to open up the AR version. The...
iphone 11 night mode photos

Apple Reveals New Night Mode Photo Feature Exclusive to iPhone 11 Series

Tuesday September 10, 2019 12:23 pm PDT by
Apple today announced the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Max, all-new models that boast improved cameras, and specifically, a dramatic new Night Mode photo feature. Last year, Google introduced its impressive Night Sight camera mode, a software-based feature that allows users to take detailed pictures in dark environments using Google Pixel smartphones. Apple's new Night...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Kuo: iPhone 13 to Feature LEO Satellite Communications to Make Calls and Texts Without Cellular Coverage

Sunday August 29, 2021 7:39 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 will feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity to allow users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage, according to the reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that the iPhone 13 lineup will feature hardware that is able to connect to LEO satellites. If enabled with the relevant...