Apple Bows To Chinese Regulators, Removes Internet Censorship-Defying Apps

Apple Inc. AAPL notified a number of software developers Saturday that their virtual private network iOS apps would no longer be accessible in censorship-heavy China.

Consumers use the VPNs to circumvent the government’s “Great Firewall” filtering internet content and limiting access to overseas sites, which renders some of the app features illegal and non-compliant with App Store guidelines.

A spokesperson implied that the decision is punitive merely for VPN developers failing to secure a government license.

“We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations,” Carolyn Wu, Apple’s China spokeswoman, told Bloomberg.

The apps are still available in other global markets, and at least one developer noted its continued accessibility in China through non-iOS platforms. ExpressVPN confirmed that users with international billing addresses will still be allowed to access the app in China.

A ‘Human Rights’ Issue

Still, it expressed concern with the latest restrictions.

“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,” the firm wrote in a press release. “ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties.”

Golden Frog and Star VPN responded similarly.

“We view access to internet in China as a human rights issue, and I would expect Apple to value human rights over profits,” Golden Frog President Sunday Yokubaitis told the New York Times.

A Matter Of Business

While many took the occasion to debate Apple’s social responsibility, some discussed the firm’s Catch-22 business position. Nearly a quarter of global sales come from China.

One argument is that, for the sake of its continuation in the Chinese market, Apple needed to submit to government standards and comply with regulations.

Conversely, some point out that its decision effectively repels consumers, whose only incentive to buy Apple over Android was the former’s capacity to bypass security.

Related Links:

Can Apple’s Mega Cycle Overcome Chinese Demand Issues? What The Future Holds For Apple In China ________ Image Credit: By Simon Wade - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Posted In: Carolyn WuChinaChinese censorshipExpressVPNGolden FrogGreat FirewallStar VPNNewsTopicsLegalGlobalMarketsTechMediaGeneral