Apple Provides Timeline for ProtonVPN App Update, Suggesting App Store Rejection Was Unrelated to Current Events in Myanmar

Earlier this week, popular VPN provider Proton made headlines by linking Apple's rejection of a security update to its ProtonVPN mobile app with the ongoing political upheaval in Myanmar. In response, Apple today provided MacRumors with a timeline of the events regarding the app update.

app store blue banner
In a blog post dated March 23, Proton founder Andy Yen wrote that Apple rejected "important updates" for its VPN app related to security, on the same day that the UN recommended people in Myanmar use ProtonMail, an encrypted email app also developed by Proton. Yen claimed that sign-ups for ProtonVPN "spiked to 250 times the previous average daily rate" in the days following the military coup, making ProtonVPN an essential tool for people on the ground, and accused Apple of putting profits ahead of human rights by blocking the update.

To safely convey such sensitive information to UN investigators and ensure whistleblowers are not attacked or killed, the UN recommended people use ProtonMail or Signal to report evidence of wrongdoing.

ProtonMail is not the only Proton app being used by activists and protesters in Myanmar. 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.

Specifically, Apple rejected the update due to an excerpt from the app's description which encouraged users to "bypass geo-restrictions or content limitations." ProtonVPN's App Store description previously read:

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.

Proton told MacRumors earlier this week that the rejection "came completely of the blue" on March 17, given that the app had always had the same description, without any issue or rejection from Apple.

Now, Apple has provided MacRumors with a more concise and specific timeline of events. In a statement, Apple says that all apps made by Proton are available and have remained available for download in Myanmar, seemingly rejecting the narrative put forth by Proton that it had deliberately withheld the update due to the situation on the ground.

Apple says it approved ProtonVPN's latest ‌App Store‌ update on March 19 and says, correctly, that Proton published the update to users two days later, on March 21. ProtonVPN, another two days later, published a blog post correlating the rejection to Apple limiting free speech and human rights in Myanmar.

  • March 18 - Apple holds up app update, requests a change to the wording in ProtonVPN app's description
  • March 19 - Update approved by Apple following requested change in wording
  • March 21 - Proton releases update to users on the ‌App Store‌
  • March 23 - Proton publishes blog post, correlating update rejection to political situation in Myanmar

Apple's full statement to MacRumors:

All apps made by Proton, including ProtonVPN, have remained available for download in Myanmar. We approved the most recent version of ProtonVPN on March 19. Following this approval, Proton chose to time the release of their update, making it available on March 21, while subsequently publishing their blog post on March 23.

Proton founder Andy Yen told The Verge that due to the emergency in Myanmar, Proton decided to remove the excerpt from the app's description that Apple had objected to, which "finally" allowed the update to be released to users.

Due to the emergency in Myanmar, we removed the language about challenging governments which Apple found objectionable, and the app was finally approved.

Despite the clarification from Apple, what remains Proton's point of contention is the sudden strict enforcement of ‌App Store‌ guidelines. App Store rule 5.4 states that VPN apps must "not violate local laws," and Apple viewed ProtonVPN's description as a violation of the rule, despite Proton's claim that Apple had no issues with it in the past.

It's still unclear what motivated Apple to enforce this particular legal rule more strictly on this occasion, but the timing is certainly unfortunate for the company from a PR perspective, given Myanmar's current political situation.

Meanwhile, Apple continues to push back against the perception that it is abusing its position as platform arbiter, as it faces multiple watchdog investigations and antitrust legal cases brought against it by developers unhappy with its App Store policies.

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

Corsig Avatar
11 months ago
I have no reason to think Apple is lying. Makes Proton look like a scumbag company
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ugahairydawgs Avatar
11 months ago
Hard not to wonder if all of this was a piggy back off of Epic's strategy of manufacturing a controversy to try and get the free publicity off the back of it.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
708692 Avatar
11 months ago
Not looking good for Proton.
Proton, I trusted you to be the good guys. Now you're looking like a pile of douches.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gnasher729 Avatar
11 months ago
So Apple rejected the App on March 18th, received and approved a changed version on March 19th, Proton waited two days to release it on March 21th, and then complained two days later on March 23rd? That's style. "Apple is holding up our app release, which we sat on four two days".
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
entropys Avatar
11 months ago

Is it just me, or does no else have a problem with the fact that Apple is openly admitting support for Myanmar's military junta here? In no way does Apple's response challenge Proton's claim that the app was rejected for political reasons; just to criticize that they accusation that they are untimely.

I believe fundamental human rights should supersede the local laws enforced in App Store Guideline 5.4. Everyone should have the right to life, liberty, and freedom of speech.
It's just you. The only people mentioning Myanmar is Proton, as a form of clickbait. A complete dog act designed to make out Apple was doing something evil simply because Myanmar was in the news. As if Apple would be talking to the junta in Myanmar! there is no information that the good citizens of Myanmar are even aware of proton VPN until the UN said something about VPNs (after the app was approved, btw).
now Apple might have got overzealous with the "Challenging governments” phrasing in the app, probably thinking about their friends in Washington, but the escalation by proton after their app was approved is pretty dodgy marketing to say the least.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
708692 Avatar
11 months ago

I have no reason to think Apple is lying. Makes Proton look like a scumbag company
Yep. I honestly thought they were the ones to trust. I use ProtonMail and ProtonVPN, and was going to move to ProtonCalendar when it comes out of beta. Have to rethink this now.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

app store blue banner

Apple Rejected Approximately 35% of Apps Submitted to App Store Between 2017 and 2019

Friday May 7, 2021 12:30 pm PDT by
The ongoing Epic Games v. Apple trial continues to provide insight into Apple's App Store processes, with documents today offering up details on the number of apps submitted to the App Store and rejected by Apple's review processes. Apple received an average of five million app submissions per year between 2017 and 2019, and between 33 and 35 percent of apps submitted were rejected by...
XcodeGhost Featured1

'XcodeGhost' Malware Attack in 2015 Impacted 128 Million iOS Users, According to Trial Documents

Friday May 7, 2021 12:55 pm PDT by
Back in 2015, a malware-infected version of Xcode began circulating in China, and malware-ridden "XcodeGhost" apps made their way into Apple's App Store and past the App Store review team. There were more than 50 known infected iOS apps at the time, including major apps like WeChat, NetEase, and Didi Taxi, with up to 500 million iOS users potentially impacted. It's been a long time since the ...
app store safe secure

Study Finds Up to 2% of Top 1,000 Paid Apps on App Store Were Scams

Monday June 7, 2021 6:33 am PDT by
Apple has used its app review process as a bulwark in recent legal assaults on its App Store policy, and put particular emphasis on the security benefits for iOS users when buying apps. However, an investigation has found that almost 2% of the top 1,000 highest grossing apps on a given day were some sort of scam. According to The Washington Post, which conducted the investigation, scam apps...
app store safe secure

Developer Highlights How Fake Apps Scam Users Via Apple's In-App Purchasing System

Wednesday April 7, 2021 4:59 am PDT by
Apple hosts millions of apps on the App Store, calling the platform a "safe and trusted" place to discover apps. While mainly true, Apple has come under criticism for hosting many different scam apps on the platform, some even raking in millions in revenue. In February, developer Kosta Elefherious highlighted how many of his own apps, including the popular Apple Watch keyboard, FlickType,...
app store review scam

App Store Scam App Required a Good Review to Function at All

Wednesday May 26, 2021 7:21 am PDT by
An app that demanded at least a three-star review to function got through the App Store review process, it has been found (via The Verge). iOS developer Kosta Eleftheriou discovered that the "UPNP Xtreme" app, which claimed to let users stream video to a TV, presented the system's App Store rating box as soon as it opened. The rating box could not be escaped from and it was not possible to...
app store blue banner uk

UK Class Action Accuses Apple of Breaking Competition Law by Overcharging for Apps

Tuesday May 11, 2021 12:54 am PDT by
A new legal case filed with the U.K.'s Competition Appeal Tribunal has accused Apple of breaching competition law by overcharging nearly 20 million customers for App Store purchases. The collective action case alleges Apple's 30% commission on app sales and consumers' forced use of its own payment processing system generates "unlawfully excessive levels of profit," and calls for the company...
app store blue banner

PSA: Apple is Updating Old Apps With Latest Signing Certificate Ahead of iOS 14.5

Friday April 16, 2021 7:55 am PDT by
Users may notice that a number of very old apps are receiving new App Store updates. Instead of fixing bugs or adding new features, the updates are occurring because Apple is updating developers' apps that use a legacy App Store code signing certificate with the latest version so that they can launch correctly in the upcoming releases of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5. Developers of affected apps...
app store blue banner russia

Apple Fined $12 Million in Russia for Violating Anti-Monopoly Rules With App Store

Tuesday April 27, 2021 10:40 am PDT by
Russia's Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) has levied a $12 million fine against Apple for alleged abuse of its dominance in the mobile applications market, reports Reuters. According to the FAS, Apple's distribution of apps through iOS gives its products a competitive advantage. Apple has been charged 906.3 million roubles, equivalent to $12.1 million. The fine stems from an August...

Popular Stories

Upcoming Products 2022 Feature

Gurman: Apple Preparing 'Widest Array of New Hardware Products in Its History' for Fall

Sunday January 23, 2022 10:32 am PST by
Apple is working on a number of new products that are set to launch this fall, and Bloomberg's Mark Gurman says that it will be "the widest array" of new devices that Apple has introduced in its history. In his latest "Power On" newsletter, Gurman explains that Apple is working on four new flagship iPhones (iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Max, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max), an updated low-end Ma...
macbook pro 14 16 2021

Three Months After Launch, Apple Still Struggling to Meet Demand for Redesigned 14-Inch and 16-Inch MacBook Pro

Monday January 24, 2022 7:12 am PST by
Three months after their launch, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros continue to experience high demand and seemingly short supply, with shipping dates for both models stretching into multiple weeks in several of Apple's key markets. In the United States, the baseline 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chip is estimated to ship in three to four weeks, promising an arrival by at least...
General Dropbox Feature

macOS 12.3 Will Include Cloud Storage Changes Affecting Dropbox and OneDrive

Tuesday January 25, 2022 3:31 pm PST by
Dropbox today announced that users who update to macOS 12.3 once that software version becomes available may temporarily encounter issues with opening online-only files in some third-party apps on their Mac. In a support document and an email to customers, Dropbox said it is actively working on full support for online-only files on macOS 12.3 and will begin rolling out an updated version of...
Questionable Design Decisions

Apple's Most Questionable Design Decisions in Recent Memory

Sunday January 23, 2022 2:59 am PST by
Apple has always emphasized the depth of thought that goes into the design of its products. In the foreword to Designed by Apple in California, a photo book released by the company in 2016, Jony Ive explains how Apple strives "to define objects that appear effortless" and "so simple, coherent and inevitable that there could be no rational alternative." But every once in a while even Apple...
Apple Watch Red Yellow Green Feature 1

Apple Launches Black Unity Braided Solo Loop With 'Unity Lights' Watch Face

Wednesday January 26, 2022 6:05 am PST by
Apple today announced the Black Unity Braided Solo Loop for the Apple Watch, as well as a new downloadable watch face, to celebrate Black History Month. Following the launch of the limited edition Black Unity Apple Watch Series 6 and Sport Band in 2021, Apple today launched the Black Unity Braided Solo Loop as part of its celebrations for Black History Month this year.Apple is launching a...
att gigabit internet

AT&T Bringing $180/Month 5-Gigabit Internet to 70 Cities

Monday January 24, 2022 9:20 am PST by
AT&T today announced the launch of upgraded AT&T Fiber plans, which support speeds of up to 5 Gigabits for some customers. There are two separate plans, one "2 GIG" plan and one "5 GIG" plan, available to new and existing AT&T Fiber subscribers. According to AT&T, the new plans are available to nearly 5.2 million customers across 70 metro areas including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, San...
intel vs m1 max chip purple

Benchmarks Confirm Intel's Latest Core i9 Chip Outperforms Apple's M1 Max With Several Caveats

Wednesday January 26, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Benchmark results have started to surface for MSI's new GE76 Raider, one of the first laptops to be powered by Intel's new 12th-generation Core i9 processor. Intel previously said that its new high-end Core i9 processor is faster than Apple's M1 Max chip in the 16-inch MacBook Pro and, as noted by Macworld, early Geekbench 5 results do appear to confirm this claim, but there are several...
ios 15

Apple Releases iOS 15.3 and iPadOS 15.3 With Fix for Safari Bug That Leaks Browsing Activity

Wednesday January 26, 2022 10:00 am PST by
Apple today released iOS 15.3 and iPadOS 15.3, the third major updates to the iOS and iPadOS 15 operating systems that were released in September 2021. iOS and iPadOS 15.3 come almost two weeks after the release of iOS and iPadOS 15.2.1, minor bug fix updates. The iOS 15.3 and iPadOS 15.3 updates can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in ...