Cupertino giant Apple is at the centre of boiling criticism from virtual private network (VPN) service providers after the company announced it is removing virtual private network VPN services from China. If you are wondering about the concept of VPN, it lets users access geographically restricted apps and websites which are not possible otherwise. For example, if you are trying to access a site from one part of the world which is restricted to those in some other parts, using VPN will trick the website you are visiting into believing you are connected from geographically unrestricted regions.
In the case of Apple, using VPNs means bypassing “The Great Firewall of China,” which restricts access websites located outside the country. The move comes in the wake of a law passed by Beijing earlier this year, seeking a ban on all VPNs that are not approved by state regulators. Apple said in a statement on Sunday it will remove apps that are not compliant with the law from its China App Store which also includes services based outside China. As a result, dozens of Chinese VPN service providers are affected by the move and have been shut down.
Although personal VPNs have been in controversy due to state-led cyber attacks in the past, it is probably the first time iPhone maker has decided to act in accordance with the request to wipe overseas providers from its app store in China.
“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,” said ExpressVPN. “We view access to Internet in China as a human rights issue, and I would expect Apple to value human rights over profit,” VyprVPN’s Sunday Yokubaitis said in a statement to Reuters.
During the Q3 2017 earnings call, Apple CEO Time Cook had this to say on the issue:
“Essentially, as a requirement for someone to operate a VPN, they have to have a license from the government there. Earlier this year, they began a renewed effort to enforce that policy, and we were required by the government to remove some of the VPN apps from the App Store that don’t meet these new regulations. We understand that those same requirements are on other app stores, and as we checked through that, that is the case. We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like in other countries, we obey the laws where we do business, and we strongly believe that participating in markets and bringing benefits to customers is in the best interest of the folks there and in other countries as well. And so we believe in engaging with governments even when we disagree. We are hopeful that over time, the restrictions we are seeing are loosened, because innovation really requires freedom to collaborate and communicate, and I know that is a major focus there.”
Last Updated at 2:55 PM (August 2, 2017) with Apple CEO Time Cook’s comment.