China: Apple pulls down VPN apps that beat censorship from Chinese App Store, company says they do not meet new legal requirements

"…Apple pulled down several VPN apps — programs that allow iPhone users to bypass the Chinese government’s censorship apparatus — from its Chinese App Store…Apple’s only public statement on the VPN ban said that the company had been “required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations..."

From another source, Tim Cook was quoted saying "...This particular case, we’re hopeful that over time the restrictions we’re seeing are lessened, because innovation really requires freedom to collaborate and communicate...We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries we follow the law wherever we do business."

"A Chinese partner of global e-commerce firm Amazon.com [Sinnet] Inc has [also] told customers to stop using illegal virtual private networks (VPNs), which can circumvent internet censorship...An Amazon Web Services spokesman said that to comply with Chinese laws and regulations, the firm had to operate in China through local partners such as Sinnet. Sinnet's notice was "intended to remind customers of their obligations," he said..."

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Article
5 December 2017

Apple CEO hopeful banned apps will return to China store

Author: Kelvin Chan, Associated Press

Apple’s chief executive said Wednesday he’s optimistic some apps that fell afoul of China’s tight internet laws will eventually be restored after being removed earlier this year.

Speaking at a business forum in southern China, CEO Tim Cook also dismissed criticism of his appearance days earlier at an internet conference promoting Beijing’s vison of a censored internet.

Cook’s high-profile appearance Sunday at the government-organized World Internet Conference drew comments from activists and U.S. politicians who say Apple should do more to push back against Chinese internet restrictions.

He said he believed strongly in freedoms but also thought that foreign companies need to play by local rules where they operate.

When asked about Chinese government policies requiring removal of apps, including ones from operators of virtual private networks that can get around the country’s internet filters, he said, “My hope over time is that some of these things, the couple things that have been pulled, come back.”…Cook said he didn’t care about being criticized for working with China, because he believes change is more likely when companies participate rather than opting to “stand on the sideline and yell at how things should be.”

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Article
4 December 2017

China: Apple & Android remove Skype from online stores to comply with local laws; many view Skype as a “semi-secure” mode of communication

Author: BBC

'Skype removed from China Apple and Android app stores', 22 November 2017

Apple says [Skype] is one of several apps to have been removed after the government said it does not comply with local law... Apple said in a statement: "We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law." Skype owner Microsoft told the BBC the app had been "temporarily removed" and the company was "working to reinstate the app as soon as possible".... Creators disapproved when the tech giant took down more than 60 virtual private networks (VPNs) which circumvent China's internet firewall because it was "legally required to remove them" under Chinese regulations... Those laws are seen as part of efforts to control public opinion and eliminate anti-government sentiment on the internet in China, and have raised concerns from foreign companies trying to expand their user base in China. [Refers to Alphabet's Google, Facebook, Twitter]

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Article
21 August 2017

China: UN rapporteur demands answers from Apple over decision to remove VPN apps

Author: Rafia Shaikh, WccF Tech (USA)

"UN wants some answers from Apple over its decision to comply with China's VPN demands", 7 Aug 2017

...Apple’s decision to quietly comply with the country’s demands specifically after how it has fought for its consumers’ privacy and freedom of expression back home in the United States has raised several questions. Now, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression...has a few questions of his own...[T]he letter asks if Apple took into consideration the “international instruments such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights or the Global Network Initiative’s Principles on Freedom of Expression” to protect the rights of Chinese consumers...

...Critics and privacy advocates have warned that in doing so the company has set a dangerous precedent as more authoritarian regimes will make similar demands of not only Apple but other tech companies, as well...

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Article
13 August 2017

Amazon China partner, Sinnet tells user to stop using illegal VPNs

Author: Reuters

"Amazon China partner tells user to stop using illegal VPNs", 2 Aug 2017

...The instruction comes after Apple Inc removed VPN services from its Chinese app store over the weekend, amid a government crackdown on their use to dodge restrictions on access to overseas websites..."If we discover (clients using unapproved VPNs), we will shut down services," said a member of staff at Beijing Sinnet Technology Co Ltd, which operates Amazon's cloud business, Amazon Web Services (AWS), in China. "We have asked clients to check all illegal cross-border businesses," said the person, adding the company was acting on government instructions...

An Amazon Web Services spokesman said that to comply with Chinese laws and regulations, the firm had to operate in China through local partners such as Sinnet. Sinnet's notice was "intended to remind customers of their obligations," he said...It has also requested internet network providers to high-end hotel chains - rare locations where users could access otherwise blocked sites - to stop recommending and helping to install VPNs...

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Article
1 August 2017

Tim Cook's response to concerns about Apple's removal of VPN apps from Chinese App Store

Author: Andrew Griffin, The Independent (UK)

"Apple's decision to remove VPN apps from the app store in China", 2 Aug 2017

Tim Cook has responded to criticisms that Apple is quietly removing apps from the App Store for the Chinese government...

Apple has been on the end of sustained criticism over the removals, which critics argue reduce the freedom of users. VPNs are required to access many websites from inside China, and serve as a way of getting around the country's infamous Great Firewall...

"We believe in engaging with governments even when we disagree," Mr Cook said. "This particular case, we’re hopeful that over time the restrictions we’re seeing are lessened, because innovation really requires freedom to collaborate and communicate. I know that is a major focus there. That’s sort of what we’re seeing from that point of view...Today there’s still hundreds of VPN apps on the App Store, including hundreds by developers outside China. We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries we follow the law wherever we do business."

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Article
30 July 2017

Apple’s Silence in China Sets a Dangerous Precedent

Author: Farhad Manjoo, New York Times

…Apple pulled down several VPN apps — programs that allow iPhone users to bypass the Chinese government’s censorship apparatus — from its Chinese App Store…Apple’s only public statement on the VPN ban said that the company had been “required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations,” but noted that the “apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.” …

 “Apple’s response is tremendously disappointing,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights advocacy group. “I think it’s possible that Apple is playing a bigger role behind the scenes here. But the problem with that is, from the outside it looks exactly like doing nothing.”…

…While American tech companies frequently criticize decisions by American officials, they appear loath to do so in China…Amazon also began banning VPN services from the Chinese version of its cloud-computing platform, called AWS. Facebook, has been exploring ways of getting into the Chinese government’s good graces. Google pulled many of its services out of the Chinese market in 2010, blaming censorship, but it has lately been mulling ways to get back.

…Despite the VPN ban, Chinese internet users might still be better off with Apple in China than with it outside. Its app store still provides people access to millions of apps that they might not find elsewhere in China. And Apple’s own communications apps in China remain free of government censorship…

…Xiao Qiang, a Chinese human rights activist… at the University of California…sees the latest crackdowns as the beginning of a new wave of internet censorship in China…“[Apple] should say something,” he said. “They are a U.S. company, after all…So if they have to do things differently in China, they should have some public explanation for why…”

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