Apple has announced to remove VPN (Virtual Private Network) apps from its Chinese App Store. The decision came after a new and much strict policy by the Chinese government to discourage the use of VPNs. Chinese people and expatriates working in China use VPNs to access Facebook, YouTube, and Google. The websites are banned in China.
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When Did It Happen?
The company started implementing the decision over the past weekend. Apple informed popular VPN apps like Express, Ivacy, Purevpn and ipvanish that their apps will be taken down. The news was confirmed by ExpressVPN on the company’s blog. The British Virgin-Islands (BVI) based VPN provider was quick to share the unfortunate news with its social media followers.
VPNs removed from China App Store. Dismayed Apple sided w/ censorship, but we're committed to keeping you connected: https://t.co/wvVk6IIsD3
— ExpressVPN (@expressvpn) July 29, 2017
While calling the removal of its iOS app ‘surprising and unfortunate’, it clarified that Mac, Windows, and Android apps of ExpressVPN are working fine.
“While Apple’s decision is surprising and unfortunate, it does not change ExpressVPN’s commitment to keeping you securely and reliably connected. Our support team stands ready 24/7, including via live chat, to help any impacted users,” ExpressVPN, Tortola, BVI
Certainly, a bad news for people residing in China. The country’s internet restrictions have pushed millions of people to use such services over the past few years.
With more than 730 million internet users, China is a big market for tech giants. Restrictions like this aside, doing business in China pays big time (Apple has more iPhone owners in China than in the United States). Hence, complying to the censorship rules of the regime doesn’t sound bad to the companies like Apple that otherwise take a principled stance on internet freedom and privacy.
Edward Snowden, the famed whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance program was quick to condemn Apple’s ban on VPN apps.
Apple aiding censorship recalls corporate collaboration with the apartheid regime. Dollars can't wash out the stain. https://t.co/NGPUhuZakM
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) July 29, 2017
Why Apple Took Down VPN Apps?
While it’s not illegal to use VPNs in China, nor has the government put a blanket ban on VPNs (as opposed to some news making headlines in the last few months). However, the VPN providers do need a license to operate in China. Not complying with the Chinese government’s wishes (of restricting, or at-least making it difficult for VPNs to operate in China) could have cost the company the Chinese fortune of its millions of iPhone users.
This isn’t a situation even Snowden would have welcomed had he be running Apple. After all, money makes the world go round. The country is difficult for the foreign companies, and many have quit operations in China due to the difficulty and restrictive business environment of the country. Google is the prime example. At-least Apple took a cautious approach and decided to comply with the government’s policy.
Not everyone agrees.
“Apple’s capitulation to China’s VPN crackdown will return to haunt it at home,” said Mike Butcher on TechCrunch.
What Did People Say About The Ban?
Generally, the ban wasn’t welcomed. In fact, journalists, internet freedom activists, and people, in general, were critical of the extreme step that Apple took. One person commented that “The greed and lack of morals of the corporate world are there like a huge banner for all the good people of the world to see. How can there be any doubts that these CEOs and their ‘investors’, small and large, are the enablers of a world of crass inequality and oppression of humanity by a few men?
After reading this, do you still feel safe in their hands, putting your interest and privacy in their hands?”
Another comment read “This is TOO far. Coming to the aid of a repressive regime’s repression is nothing an American company should ever agree to do.”
The restrictions on the use of VPNs are only going to get tougher by the day. The recent development shows that for the foreseeable future, China’s heavy handedness on VPN companies will continue. To help you decide which VPN provider is best for you, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide about ‘best VPN for China“.