Apple pulls VPN apps from Chinese App Store in compliance with government crackdown

Posted:
in iPhone
Apple has removed virtual private network (VPN) apps from the Chinese App Store, apparently complying with a broader government crackdown on VPN technology.




Developer ExpressVPN received a notification about its app's removal early on Saturday, according to a blog post. The firm said that checks showed "all major" VPN apps have been pulled, although people using App Stores based outside China should be unaffected, even if they're residing in the country.

The Chinese government recently began shutting down unauthorized VPNs, which were one of the few ways people could circumvent the country's "Great Firewall" censorship technology. Indeed a group of new cybersecurity laws have come into effect, for instance requiring foreign companies with Chinese user data to store it on local servers.

Earlier this month Apple launched its first Chinese data center in cooperation with Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry, precisely for the sake of complying.

ExpressVPN's notification.
ExpressVPN's notification.


Sudden removals -- or crippled services -- can be an occasional cost of doing business in China. Facebook's WhatsApp was recently hobbled by the Great Firewall for instance, and in January Apple was forced to pull the New York Times app.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 54
    Chuck Fina!
    anton zuykovAvieshek
  • Reply 2 of 54
    sacto joesacto joe Posts: 707member

    It isn’t up to Apple to tell a sovereign people how to run their country. If the people of China don’t like being censored, then it’s up to them to end it. Frankly, Apple has given the people of China far more of a chance for real freedom than I ever dreamed possible. The same can be said for the world in general.

    These sad sack opinionizers really don’t have a clue….

    robin huberanton zuykovbadmonkAvieshekdesignrdewmeviclauyycsennenjbdragonjcs2305
  • Reply 3 of 54
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,246member
    Apple needs to design a phone for the Chinese market that provides the ultimate in state security. All calls are automatically routed through government computers that record and store the call for later analysis, and random calls are actively monitored in real time. Same for texts and posts to social media. Browser activity is similarly monitored. Find My Friends is renamed Find Our Enemies and is locked on with results shown on a huge map at state security headquarters. The pro model contains a small plastic explosive charge that can be triggered to blow the head off a caller if judged to be an imminent threat. Phone comes in red only, for good luck, and party pride.
    tallest skilcornchipnetroxAvieshekviclauyyc
  • Reply 4 of 54
    I'm not sure if Apple is actually being criticized for following Chinese government-mandated regulations. No company should go into a country and try to change the government's policies. If Chinese iOS users are upset with this then they need to go out into the streets and demonstrate against their own government's policies if they have the balls to do that.  China isn't a democracy and I'm sure Apple has foreseen something like this happening.  Apple is basically a guest in that country and is subject to the whims of the government as any foreign business would be.

    I honestly can't believe that critics feel Apple should simply pull out of China and stop ALL business with China because of this 'no VPN apps' policy. I don't see how that helps anyone.  Apple would then have to abandon all current iOS hardware users and lose all the money they invested in China. That's just plain stupid. It's true Apple has to kiss Chinese butt, but it's better than losing tens of billions of dollars and loyal customers.

    Apple needs China far more than China needs Apple. Apple can't depend on Americans anymore who would just as soon buy some cheap smartphone from China and S. Korea rather than support a domestic brand.   I'm sure there must be some other way to get a VPN app on an iPhone without going through the Apple App Store.  Surely it must be possible to sideload apps on an iPhone even if it requires some jailbreak.
    edited July 2017 viclauyycjbdragon
  • Reply 5 of 54
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,027member
    They don't seem to have any problem pushing their ideals when it makes for good publicity.
    The PR-op in this case, wouldn't outweigh the sales loss... and from the looks of some of the comments here, freedom has already been lost. It's just a matter of time before the West heads more towards China.
    tallest skilAvieshekcopelandoseameviclauyyc
  • Reply 6 of 54
    I'm not sure if Apple is actually being criticized for following Chinese government-mandated regulations. No company should go into a country and try to change the government's policies. If Chinese iOS users are upset with this then they need to go out into the streets and demonstrate against their own government's policies if they have the balls to do that.  China isn't a democracy and I'm sure Apple has foreseen something like this happening.  Apple is basically a guest in that country and is subject to the whims of the government as any foreign business would be.

    I honestly can't believe that critics feel Apple should simply pull out of China and stop ALL business with China because of this 'no VPN apps' policy. I don't see how that helps anyone.  Apple would then have to abandon all current iOS hardware users and lose all the money they invested in China. That's just plain stupid. It's true Apple has to kiss Chinese butt, but it's better than losing tens of billions of dollars and loyal customers.

    Apple needs China far more than China needs Apple. Apple can't depend on Americans anymore who would just as soon buy some cheap smartphone from China and S. Korea rather than support a domestic brand.   I'm sure there must be some other way to get a VPN app on an iPhone without going through the Apple App Store.  Surely it must be possible to sideload apps on an iPhone even if it requires some jailbreak.
    Hahahaha protest in China?? You really know nothing about communism/socialism do you? Go back and study up on communist Russia. People are so blind to history nowadays. You protest those types of government and you're never heard from again. 
    tallest skilAvieshekcopelandoseamejbdragon
  • Reply 7 of 54
    longfanglongfang Posts: 106member
    I'm not sure if Apple is actually being criticized for following Chinese government-mandated regulations. No company should go into a country and try to change the government's policies. If Chinese iOS users are upset with this then they need to go out into the streets and demonstrate against their own government's policies if they have the balls to do that.  China isn't a democracy and I'm sure Apple has foreseen something like this happening.  Apple is basically a guest in that country and is subject to the whims of the government as any foreign business would be.

    I honestly can't believe that critics feel Apple should simply pull out of China and stop ALL business with China because of this 'no VPN apps' policy. I don't see how that helps anyone.  Apple would then have to abandon all current iOS hardware users and lose all the money they invested in China. That's just plain stupid. It's true Apple has to kiss Chinese butt, but it's better than losing tens of billions of dollars and loyal customers.

    Apple needs China far more than China needs Apple. Apple can't depend on Americans anymore who would just as soon buy some cheap smartphone from China and S. Korea rather than support a domestic brand.   I'm sure there must be some other way to get a VPN app on an iPhone without going through the Apple App Store.  Surely it must be possible to sideload apps on an iPhone even if it requires some jailbreak.
    Hahahaha protest in China?? You really know nothing about communism/socialism do you? Go back and study up on communist Russia. People are so blind to history nowadays. You protest those types of government and you're never heard from again. 
    So your solution is to habe Apple protest so they are never heard of again? I get that some people have an irrational hatred for  but to want them gone this way seems a bit vindictive.
    jbdragon
  • Reply 8 of 54
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,697member

    But in return Apple gives them the "Find My Kommissar" app.

    I bet you China gets the back door into iPhone security before US because they play tough.


  • Reply 9 of 54
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,680member
    This was expected happen when the story emerged last week, and while it's  a small set back for Chinese iDevice users, it's only a minor set back. Using an Android phone  with a side-loaded VPN app to be used as personal HotSpot or even jailbreaking the iPhone to then use VPN software as an option. But none of that may not be needed because it looks like the app from removed from the App Store, not specifically remotely killed on your device. But even if had been, there are  also workarounds to get the app from other market's App Stores.

    For all you making jingoistic and chauvinistic statements, it's too bad you're not not smart enough to understand that Apple operating in these other countries is Apple working to offend your weak and insecure ideals, but working to connect these people and make them a part of Western culture. and it's working. The Chinese have great benefits from Apple's efforts to both manufacture, and market and sell their products to the Chinese. If you didn't live in a bubble surrounded by Norman Rockwell imagery that never existed in reality you'd understand how Apple's success in China is success for the Chinese people in the long run.
    StrangeDayscornchipsennenjbdragon
  • Reply 10 of 54
    sergiozsergioz Posts: 222member

    That's just silly! As long as iOS supports VPN Chinese people will continue using them. Removing apps will only hurt developers who made simple apps that installed VPN profiles and made things easy for non-techie.

  • Reply 11 of 54
    mubailimubaili Posts: 387member
    Yes, we know in order to do business in a country Apple has to follow the law in that country. The question is which law says VPN is prohibited (I am not aware of any such law exists at all), even that law exists should Apple challenge that law on a basis of China constitution, and last but not least where does Apple draw the line on the sand?
  • Reply 12 of 54
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,048member
    Soli said:
     But even if had been, there are  also workarounds to get the app from other market's App Stores.
    That's interesting. Can you provide some examples? There are some folks I know who'd like to know...
    cornchip
  • Reply 13 of 54
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,090member
    mubaili said:
    Yes, we know in order to do business in a country Apple has to follow the law in that country. The question is which law says VPN is prohibited (I am not aware of any such law exists at all), even that law exists should Apple challenge that law on a basis of China constitution, and last but not least where does Apple draw the line on the sand?
    So you’re a chinese law expert? Fascinating. 
    cornchip
  • Reply 14 of 54
    sacto joe said:

    It isn’t up to Apple to tell a sovereign people how to run their country. If the people of China don’t like being censored, then it’s up to them to end it. Frankly, Apple has given the people of China far more of a chance for real freedom than I ever dreamed possible. The same can be said for the world in general.

    These sad sack opinionizers really don’t have a clue….

    I think it's perfectly fine to just make a killing in China, sell what consumers desire and not care about the fact that iCloud servers have to be placed under Chinese government control in China, that all kinds of apps have to be removed from the app store and that news is either shut down or heavily filtered. Moreover, to keep staying in business these restrictions will have to be expanded in the near future (such as giving the government access to monitor FaceTime or iMessage conversations).

    However, Apple then shouldn't make a big deal describing itself as a company that wants to change the world (something it likes to do when operating in places such as the US where this talk of talk doesn't get you kicked out of the country).

    It's pretty difficult to think of a large company that refused to operate in a country due to moral objections. The only example that comes to my mind is Google leaving China in 2010 which came at a huge cost (it's reasonably to assume that China would be as important to Google today as China is to Apple).
    muthuk_vanalingamcgWerks
  • Reply 15 of 54
    sergioz said:

    That's just silly! As long as iOS supports VPN Chinese people will continue using them. Removing apps will only hurt developers who made simple apps that installed VPN profiles and made things easy for non-techie.

    The next step will be China requiring that the native iOS VPN client only connects to "approved" VPN providers - which will log all visits and IP addresses and will prevent connections to non-approved sites. 

    With a locked system like the iPhone it is absolutely possible to gradually switch off all kinds of "undesired" communication. 

  • Reply 16 of 54
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,697member
    longfang said:
    I get that some people have an irrational hatred for  but to want them gone this way seems a bit vindictive.
    How about just not being wishy-washy relativist embarrassments and obvious hypocrites? Then again, these are liberals we’re talking about. If they actually held to a single set of beliefs, they wouldn’t be liberals. Ever heard of just NOT selling to communist nations?
    With almost all its manufacturing / assembly in China when China jerks their chain Apple has to heal.
    cornchip
  • Reply 17 of 54
    Ask yourself why the Chinese government would enforce this only on the iPhone - not Android, or even the Mac - exactly one month before the new iPhone is due to be announced. The Chinese government is protecting Chinese phone manufacturers. Apple isn't sucking up to the Chinese, they're being screwed over by them.
    tallest skiloseame
  • Reply 18 of 54
    This at the same time Apple should be offering integrated vpn as a part of iOS macOS and iCloud. 
  • Reply 19 of 54
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,048member
    sacto joe said:

    It isn’t up to Apple to tell a sovereign people how to run their country. If the people of China don’t like being censored, then it’s up to them to end it. Frankly, Apple has given the people of China far more of a chance for real freedom than I ever dreamed possible. The same can be said for the world in general.

    These sad sack opinionizers really don’t have a clue….

    I still don't have a clear view on what Apple should have done here -- I still have an open mind on that -- but one thing seems obvious: the next time the issue of privacy crops up in the US (or in the EU) in a big way (e.g., as in the case of the San Bernadine terrorist), Apple may not have much of a leg to stand on. 
  • Reply 20 of 54
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,840member
    Apple needs to design a phone for the Chinese market that provides the ultimate in state security. All calls are automatically routed through government computers that record and store the call for later analysis, and random calls are actively monitored in real time. Same for texts and posts to social media. Browser activity is similarly monitored. Find My Friends is renamed Find Our Enemies and is locked on with results shown on a huge map at state security headquarters. The pro model contains a small plastic explosive charge that can be triggered to blow the head off a caller if judged to be an imminent threat. Phone comes in red only, for good luck, and party pride.
    All calls ARE routed through government-controlled phone companies and all calls are recorded and monitored. I never bring a phone or computer when I travel there.
    edited July 2017
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