VPN App Claims Apple Intentionally Blocking App Store Updates Amid Internet Crackdown in Myanmar

ProtonVPN, a popular VPN choice for iOS users, claims that Apple is blocking "important updates" to its iOS app following a United Nations recommendation for the app to be used amid an internet crackdown in Myanmar.

protonvpn stop sign apple 1
In a blog post today, the app says that Apple is blocking updates for the app due to an excerpt from the app's description. In the App Store, ProtonVPN says:

Whether it is challenging governments, educating the public, or training journalists, we have a long history of helping bring online freedom to more people around the world.

In an email to the developers, Apple says that the app needs to revise the description to exclude any action that "encourages users to bypass geo-restrictions or content limitations." ‌App Store‌ rule 5.4, which outlines policies for VPN apps on the platform, says that all apps must "not violate local laws," and ProtonVPN makes the connection to the current ongoing situation in Myanmar, in which a military-led coup has shut down internet access for millions.

protonvpn apple rejectionEmail from Apple to ProtonVPN regarding update rejection

On March 17, the United Nations advised people to document the ongoing situation as evidence for "crimes against humanity." The UN specifically recommended that users use ProtonMail and/or Signal to share the information. Proton says, however, that users have also turned to ProtonVPN.

ProtonMail is not the only Proton app being used by activists and protesters in Myanmar. For the past month, the Myanmar military has forced the national telecom companies to regularly shut down the internet and block access to social media to prevent damaging evidence from getting out.

The people of Myanmar have also turned to ProtonVPN to get around these internet blocks, seek accurate news to stay safe, and report on the killings. In the days immediately after the coup, the sign-ups for ProtonVPN in Myanmar spiked to 250 times the previous average daily rate.

On the same day the UN recommended Proton apps, Apple suddenly rejected important updates to our ProtonVPN iOS app. These updates include security enhancements designed to further improve safeguards against account takeover attempts which could compromise privacy.

Apple claims that one reason for rejection is the reference to "challenging governments" in its description. It's not clear when the app decided to add that excerpt, as the app has received plenty of app updates in the past without any rejections. It is plausible that the app added the description as part of a recent update, triggering Apple's rejection, which just so happens to line up with the situation in Myanmar.

We've reached out to Apple to clarify the situation and we'll update the article if we hear back.

Update: Proton has informed MacRumors that the excerpt in its app description on the ‌App Store‌, which triggered Apple's rejection, has been in place "for months," without any prior issue. Proton says the rejection "came completely out of the blue."

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News 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.

Top Rated Comments

kennyt72 Avatar
18 months ago
Do Apple know what a military coup is?
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Johnny907 Avatar
18 months ago

Seems like it would be a lot easier to remove two words from the app description than to raise public awareness and hope that Apple will cave. Better yet, remove the two offending words AND let everyone know why you did it. That way the people who need this vital tool can have it in their hands while we settle the politics.
“Whether it is challenging governments, educating the public, or training journalists”

I’m sorry but what about any of that implies illegal activity, thus violating Apple’s terms? That app is going to do what it is going to do regardless of how it is described, so if Apple feels the usage of it would violate the law then they need to just deny it and all such VPN apps outright. Apple would never do that, however, as it would forever tarnish their “looking out for the little guy/we protect privacy and freedom” image.

Let’s not beat around the bush here, we know why Apple is doing this, and it’s wrong. There is going to be backlash, and they deserve every bit of it for trying to have it both ways: champion of digital freedom while simultaneously immune to legal action.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gavroche Avatar
18 months ago
I’ve already been very disappointed with Apples actions and statements about political issues here in the US. And while they talk like they care so much about civil rights and doing right, they most certainly turn a blind eye to China’s actions. Now this here is just more evidence of them picking sides. Here in the US, they were all for and supportive of protest on one side of the political spectrum, but surpressed opposing viewpoints, and apps used for communication. It’s getting harder for me to want to stay with them.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
1258186 Avatar
18 months ago
The military are not the legitimate government of Myanmar. They are murderers. Their laws should not be respected by anyone.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
centauratlas Avatar
18 months ago
' reference to "challenging governments" '

I am disappointed if Apple truly means this because I guess when the CCP, or the US's FBI, NSA, CIA, or the European, African, Central/South/North Americas, Asia's governments etc want access to an iPhone's data, Apple will now happily comply. Apple must not "challenge governments". Oh no, that would be awful. Maybe they just need to build in a backdoor in order to make sure they don't "challenge governments". /sarcasm

And since when is "challenging governments" illegal?

Apple: encrypt everything using on device keys so you can't do it. Encourage people to use tools like VPNs when governments (China, Myanmar, Cuba) want to control people and when corporations (e.g. Facebook, Google, Twitter etc) want to track and monitor everyone. Stand for something.

Talk is cheap.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
topgunn Avatar
18 months ago

Do Apple know what a military coup is? How does this app challenge the government in Myanmar?
The problem is, this app is available globally and Apple, for better or worse, has agreed to abide by the laws of the countries in which it operates. Many authoritarian countries in which Apple does business wouldn't take kindly to an app Apple is hosting that has a stated purpose of challenging governments.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

google one app

Google One Disappears From App Store a Day After VPN Launch [Update: Google One is Back in the App Store]

Wednesday February 2, 2022 12:01 pm PST by
The Google One app for iPhone and iPad appears to have mysteriously disappeared from the App Store this morning, and it is no longer available for download. As noted on Reddit, attempting to download the Google One app in the United States and Canada pops up an error message that says "App Not Available." It is not clear why the app has been removed from the App Store at this time, and...
wordle

Clones of Popular 'Wordle' Game Flooding App Store, Including One Charging $30 Per Year [Updated]

Tuesday January 11, 2022 1:39 pm PST by
If you're a regular internet user you've probably heard of popular web-based daily guessing game Wordle, created by Josh Wardle. The game, which is entirely free to play, was introduced last fall and has been spreading like wildfire. Wordle asks players to guess a five letter word by identifying which letters are in the word and are located in the right location. Players get six guesses per...
iOS App Store General Feature Dock

Indie Developer Dogged By Scammy Clone Apps Again Highlights the Holes in Apple's App Store Review Process

Monday February 21, 2022 9:29 am PST by
Apps that copy concepts and features from other apps are nothing new in the ‌App Store‌, but scammy like-for-like clones of genuine apps remain a perennial problem that Apple still hasn't resolved, as indie developer Kevin Archer recently discovered. Archer is responsible for 2Stable's Authenticator App, a feature-rich app that stores and generates secure two-factor authentication tokens...
app store blue banner

Apple Updates App Store Guidelines as Part of Agreement With U.S. Developers

Friday October 22, 2021 1:00 pm PDT by
Apple today announced it has updated its App Store Review Guidelines with three key changes related to outside-of-app communications, collecting contact information within an app, and in-app events featured in the App Store. In late August, Apple announced it had reached a $100 million settlement that, pending court approval, would resolve a class action lawsuit from U.S. developers who...
iOS 14 vs 15 feature

Apple Says Option to Stay on iOS 14 Was Always Meant to Be Temporary

Wednesday January 19, 2022 9:57 am PST by
Last week, MacRumors shared news that Apple had stopped releasing iOS 14 security updates and was pushing those still on iOS 14 to upgrade to iOS 15, an apparent reversal of a promise to allow users to stay on the iOS 14 operating system. Apple today told Ars Technica that the option to stay on iOS 14 and avoid the iOS 15 upgrade was always meant to be temporary. It is not a mistake that...
app store blue banner russia

App Store and iTunes Purchases Reportedly 'Turned Off' in Russia

Thursday March 10, 2022 4:39 am PST by
iPhones.ru is reporting that iTunes and App Store purchases can no longer be made by Apple device users located in Russia, leaving them unable to pay for apps, media, or Apple services. According to the Russia-based site, it is now impossible for users to add funds to their App Store or iTunes Store accounts using regional bank cards issued by Russian banks including Alfa-Bank, Sber, and...
apple amsterdam

Apple Issues Statement Following Resolved Hostage Situation At Amsterdam Store

Wednesday February 23, 2022 4:30 am PST by
Apple has praised Dutch police as well as customers and staff at an Amsterdam store where a hostage situation yesterday came to a close with no injuries to the public and the suspect detained in custody. In a statement obtained by TechCrunch, Apple said that all employees and customers are safe after the "terrifying experience" at Apple Amsterdam in Leidseplein on Tuesday. "We want to thank ...
iOS App Store General Feature Dock 2

Apple Defends App Store Changes in the Netherlands as Fines Reach €30 Million

Monday February 28, 2022 9:32 am PST by
Amid an ongoing dispute with the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) in the Netherlands over the App Store, Apple has defended its plan to require app developers to submit an additional app binary for the Dutch storefront if they wish to use a third-party payment processing method. The ACM has ruled that Apple must allow dating apps in the Netherlands to use third-party payment...

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Pro Purple Rear Flat MacRumors Exclusive

iPhone 14 Pro Predicted to Start With Increased 256GB Storage Alongside Rumored Price Increase

Wednesday August 10, 2022 11:14 am PDT by
Earlier today, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed iPhone 14 Pro models will be more expensive than iPhone 13 Pro models. Kuo did not reveal exact pricing, but he said that the average selling price of all four iPhone 14 models will increase by about 15% overall. While higher prices would be disappointing for customers, it is possible the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max will offer increased...
iOS 16 battery percentage

Apple Limiting iOS 16 Beta 5 Battery Percentage Display to Select iPhones: Here Are the Supported Devices

Tuesday August 9, 2022 2:51 am PDT by
Apple this week brought back one of the most highly requested features from iOS users since the launch of the iPhone X in 2017: the ability to see your battery percentage directly in the status bar. Ever since the launch of the iPhone X with the notch, Apple has not allowed users to show their battery percentage directly in the status bar, forcing them to swipe down into Control Center to...
iPhone 14 Pro Lineup Feature Silver

Kuo: Apple to Increase Prices of iPhone 14 Pro Models

Wednesday August 10, 2022 8:22 am PDT by
Apple plans to increase the prices of iPhone 14 Pro models compared to iPhone 13 Pro models, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo did not reveal exact pricing for the iPhone 14 Pro models. However, in a tweet today, he estimated that the average selling price of the iPhone 14 lineup as a whole will increase by about 15% compared to the iPhone 13 lineup. In the United States, the iPhone...
ios 16 beta 5 battery percent

iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage Now Displayed in iPhone Status Bar

Monday August 8, 2022 10:43 am PDT by
With the fifth beta of iOS 16, Apple has updated the battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the specific battery percentage rather than just a visual representation of battery level. The new battery indicator is available on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, with the exception of the 5.4-inch iPhone 12/13 mini. It is also available on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, XS and XS Max, and...
battery percentage ios 16

Here's Why the iPhone Battery Status Icon in iOS 16 Is So Controversial

Wednesday August 10, 2022 4:34 am PDT by
In the latest iOS 16 beta, Apple has updated the status bar battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the exact percentage remaining rather than just a visual representation of battery level, and while the change has been largely welcomed, some users are unhappy with the way it has been implemented. In iOS 15 and earlier, battery percent has not been present on iPhones that have...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Front and Back MacRumors Exclusive feature

iPhone 14 Is Just a Few Weeks Away: Three Tips to Prepare for the New iPhone

Wednesday August 10, 2022 4:08 am PDT by
The launch of the new iPhone 14 is just a few weeks away, meaning millions of iPhone customers will soon upgrade their existing iPhone or perhaps get an iPhone for the first time. Exclusive MacRumors iPhone 14 Pro renders by graphic designer Ian Zelbo Whether upgrading from an older model or this is your first iPhone, we've rounded up a few tips to help you prepare for the next flagship...
iPhone 14 Lineup Feature Purple

Color Options for All iPhone 14 Models: Everything We Know

Monday August 8, 2022 3:59 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models are rumored to be available in a refreshed range of color options, including an all-new purple color. Most expectations about the iPhone 14 lineup's color options come from an unverified post on Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this year. Overall, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro's selection of color options could look fairly similar to those of the ...