Ap­ple re­moves some VPN ser­vices from China app store

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

Ap­ple has re­moved soft­ware al­low­ing in­ter­net users to skirt China’s “Great Fire­wall” from its app store in the coun­try, the com­pany con­firmed yes­ter­day, spark­ing crit­i­cism that it was bow­ing to Bei­jing’s tight­en­ing web cen­sor­ship. Chi­nese in­ter­net users have for years sought to get around heavy in­ter­net re­stric­tions, in­clud­ing blocks on Face­book and Twit­ter, by us­ing for­eign vir­tual pri­vate network (VPN) ser­vices. Bei­jing man­dated in Jan­uary that all de­vel­op­ers must ob­tain gov­ern­ment li­censes to of­fer VPNs, lead­ing to the Ap­ple de­ci­sion.

“We have been re­quired to re­move some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new reg­u­la­tions,” Ap­ple said in a state­ment yes­ter­day. “These apps re­main avail­able in all other mar­kets where they do busi­ness.” Two ma­jor providers, Ex­pressVPN and Star VPN, said on Satur­day that Ap­ple had no­ti­fied them that their prod­ucts were no longer be­ing of­fered in China. Both firms de­cried the move. “Our pre­lim­i­nary re­search in­di­cates that all ma­jor VPN apps for iOS have been re­moved,” Ex­pressVPN said in a state­ment, call­ing Ap­ple’s move “sur­pris­ing and un­for­tu­nate”.

“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,” it added. Star VPN wrote on Twit­ter: “This is very dan­ger­ous prece­dent which can lead to same moves in coun­tries like UAE etc. where gov­ern­ment con­trol ac­cess to in­ter­net.” China has hun­dreds of mil­lions of smart­phone users and is a vi­tal mar­ket for Ap­ple, whose iPhones are wildly pop­u­lar in the coun­try.

The com­pany un­veiled plans earlier this month to build a data cen­tre in China to store its lo­cal iCloud cus­tomers’ per­sonal de­tails. While China is home to the world’s largest num­ber of in­ter­net users, a 2015 re­port by US think tank Free­dom House found that the coun­try had the most re­stric­tive on­line use poli­cies of 65 na­tions it stud­ied, rank­ing be­low Iran and Syria. But China has main­tained that its var­i­ous forms of web cen­sor­ship are nec­es­sary for pro­tect­ing its na­tional se­cu­rity.

The na­tional VPN crack­down comes af­ter the pass­ing of a con­tro­ver­sial cy­ber­se­cu­rity bill last Novem­ber that tight­ened re­stric­tions on on­line free­dom of speech and im­posed new rules on ser­vice providers. Since the reg­u­la­tion took ef­fect this June, au­thor­i­ties have closed dozens of celebrity gos­sip blogs and is­sued new rules around on­line video con­tent to elim­i­nate pro­grams deemed of­fen­sive. —AFP

BEI­JING: A Chi­nese fam­ily walks out of an Ap­ple store in Bei­jing. —AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.