Senators demand Tim Cook explain VPN app removal in China, suggest Apple enables censorshi...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2017
U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) penned a joint letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook this week asking for clarification on the company's decision to remove certain virtual private network (VPN) apps from China's App Store, saying the move potentially enables the country's censorship and internet surveillance policies.




Recalling a July report from The New York Times, Cruz and Leahy voice concern over Apple's removal of VPN apps marketed on the Chinese iOS App Store.

"VPNs allow users to access the uncensored Internet in China and other countries that restrict Internet freedom," the letter reads. "If these reports are true, we are concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chinese government's censorship and surveillance of the Internet."

Earlier this year, Apple pulled a number of VPN titles to comply with Chinese regulations. At first blush, the move appears to run counter to Apple's well cultivated image as protector of consumer privacy and proponent of free speech. The decision also impacts the App Store, a property which Apple has doggedly protected from outside intrusion, including meddling by government regulators.

Cook has already responded to criticism surrounding Apple's decision. In August, he said the company was simply adhering to government stipulations that require operators of VPN apps and related services to obtain a license. A renewed effort to enforce these policies, which date back to 2015, prompted scrutiny and the ultimate culling of an unknown number of iOS apps.

"We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries we follow the law wherever we do business," Cook said at the time. "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. So we believe in engaging with governments even when we disagree."

Whether Cruz and Leahy are aware of Cook's statement is unknown.

Calling out Cook directly, the senators point to the executive's acceptance of this year's Newseum Free Expression Award. The letter cites Cook's acceptance speech as a counter to Apple's Chinese app decision, suggesting there is a disconnect between what the company says publicly and what it does privately.

"First we defend, we work to defend these freedoms by enabling people around the world to speak up. And second, we do it by speaking up ourselves. Because companies can, and should have values," Cook said at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., in April. "At Apple we are not just enabling others to speak up, we are doing so ourselves."

Apple's compliance with China's demands to remove the VPN apps in question runs counter to Apple's aspirations of being a bastion of free speech, Cruz and Leahy suggest.

Further, the senators claim Apple showed a similar lack of fortitude when it shut down the iBooks Store and iTunes Movies last year, then pulled the NYT app from the Chinese App Store.

Cruz and Leahy ask that Cook respond to a series of questions regarding Apple's stance on China Cybersecurity Law, and more specifically whether the company issued formal comments or raised concerns during a draft reading in 2015. Other questions relate specifically to China's involvement in the VPN app removal, as well as how many titles were impacted by the decision. Cook is also asked to supply copies of Apple statements that promote free speech in China or condemn censorship in the region, as alluded to in his Newseum acceptance speech.
«13

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 57
    lymflymf Posts: 65member
    While the question can and should be raised, the fact that it comes from Ted Cruz is just discrediting the whole process :)
    payecodanhviclauyycanantksundaramjony0
  • Reply 2 of 57
    ksecksec Posts: 1,505member
    lymf said:
    While the question can and should be raised, the fact that it comes from Ted Cruz is just discrediting the whole process :)
    Why should the question be raised to Apple and not direct to China?
    mike54minicoffeeradarthekatLukeCageSoundJudgmentairnerdbrucemclongpathLordeHawkzoetmb
  • Reply 3 of 57
    What choice did Apple have unless they wanted to be booted and blocked like Google?
    radarthekatmwhitelongpathSpamSandwichzoetmbjony0
  • Reply 4 of 57
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,351member
    Maybe China should pen letters to gun manufacturers and ask them what they’re planning to do about the staggering number of firearms-related deaths in the US. 

    Or maybe China has enough sense to check its own back yard before opening its big fat publicity-seeking mouth. 
    [Deleted User]mike54radarthekatmwhiteLukeCageSoundJudgmentbrucemcfreerangeviclauyycanantksundaram
  • Reply 5 of 57
    mike54mike54 Posts: 265member
    ?? China is free to make it own rules, just as the US does. Apple needs obey the rules or move out. Or is it do as I say or not what I do. Those senators are too wrinkled to have the capacity to think.
    radarthekatlongpathviclauyycanantksundaram
  • Reply 6 of 57
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,061member
    Don't these fucking senators have things to focus on in their own country, instead of worrying about which apps Apple makes available in China? It's none of their damn business. Laughable.
    radarthekatmwhitemacxpressbrucemcSolilongpathviclauyycanantksundaramjony0
  • Reply 7 of 57
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,766member
    Lets see... It's China.
    Another country.
    Apple is just a company with ZERO power there really. China could mess up Apple in 200 different ways if it raised to many hurdles.

    Apple is not the diplomacy/foreign policy arm of the US government.
    Well, the state department these days is in quasi ruin, so the US really has no more diplomacy.

    The guy is asking Apple to do something when the US itself, which has a lot more leverage  is doing NOTHING about it...

    Another bit of grandstanding from a politician.
    radarthekatlongpathzoetmbviclauyycanantksundaramjony0
  • Reply 8 of 57
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,322member
    tokyojimu said:
    What choice did Apple have unless they wanted to be booted and blocked like Google?
    I think that's part of what the Senators are asking isn't it? What choice did Apple have. Perhaps it gives Apple the opportunity to better explain the pressures they're under from China and the demands being made of them in that country to the Senators.

    Geesh, Congressmen and Senators ask questions all the time. Why does it rile folks up here when questions are posed to Apple? Big deal, they aren't threatening them with anything. They simply want to understand.
    edited October 2017 muthuk_vanalingammobirdsingularityjony0
  • Reply 9 of 57
    If they are so concerned about internet surveillance and censorship why don’t they attack the nsa or google’s algorithm censoring news sites based on its notion of what is “authoritative”?

    China is probably our last hope against capitalist barbarism.  

    Land of the free my ass - with the most laws and prisoners and guns and wars where selfishness is considered a virtue and healthcare a class privilege!
    Rayz2016freerangeviclauyyc
  • Reply 10 of 57
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,677moderator
    There is no disconnect.  Tim Cook did not say Apple enables people’s right to free speech in contradiction to the laws of the countries in which those people live.  

    On another point, if Apple never had those VPN apps in its Chinese App Store, would the senators be suggesting Apple should upload some, in contradiction to the laws of China?   
    bb-15jony0
  • Reply 11 of 57
    Apple has to follow the laws of the country it operates in. 
    Solipscooter63anantksundaram
  • Reply 12 of 57
    That’s funny they’re concerned about “freedom of speech” when they’re losing their minds over NFL players kneeling during the anthem.
    Rayz2016freerangedewmeSolitdknoxdsdStrangeDaysbb-15viclauyycradarthekat
  • Reply 13 of 57

    Dear Senators Crapforbrains and Nobrainsatall,

    Are you familiar with the concept of complying with the law...?

    radarthekat
  • Reply 14 of 57
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,322member
    There is no disconnect.  Tim Cook did not say Apple enables people’s right to free speech in contradiction to the laws of the countries in which those people live.  

    On another point, if Apple never had those VPN apps in its Chinese App Store, would the senators be suggesting Apple should upload some, in contradiction to the laws of China?   
    Of course Apple shouldn't intentionally contravene Chinese laws, but I think you and a few others here are confused about this in the first place. VPN apps in China are not illegal AFAICT. The Chinese government also denies ordering any companies to block them, and that includes even state-owned telecoms. That does not mean that China did not strongly suggest it.

    So while Mr. Cook properly says Apple follows the law in countries where they operate he did not say (AFAIK) that the VPN apps were removed as mandated by Chinese law. I think you and the others are simply making that connection because of the way Mr. Cook stated it. And while there is a temporary regulation (expires within a few months) that requires VPN apps be licensed Mr Cook did not go so far as to say all the VPN apps that were removed were strictly for that reason. 

    In any event VPN apps are not illegal in China. 
    edited October 2017 muthuk_vanalingamSoli
  • Reply 15 of 57
    Tim Cook and Apple apologists are out in full force. Tim loves to preach to US citizens yet does business with some of the worst countries in the world.
    ben20
  • Reply 16 of 57
    Oh the hypocrisy. Amazon is removing hundreds of book titles, YouTube is demonetizing/removing thousands of videos and channels, thanks to the "SJW cesspool" YouTube has become. 6:50:

    And they worry about censorship in China?
    freerangeSpamSandwich
  • Reply 17 of 57
    I'm almost surprised that VPNs are allowed in the U.S. with all the video piracy going on here. I'll bet the U.S. government wished VPNs were outlawed so they could snoop on everyone. Why doesn't the U.S. go after the Chinese goverment instead of only going after Apple? Apple is just a guest in China and are following Chinese policies. It's not as though anyone is being physically harmed from the practice. The Chinese government makes the policies of that country. It sounds as though some people in the U.S. simply has an agenda to make Apple look bad for reasons I can't quite understand. If Apple stopped doing business in China it would only hurt the U.S. trade deficit more.
    radarthekattoysandme
  • Reply 18 of 57
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,131member
    Same senators will be demanding RT, Al Jazera and others be classified as foreign agents, which effectively bans them.
    toysandme
  • Reply 19 of 57
    Every time Apple opens it mouth to virtue signal in the West, just remember it turns a blind eye to all the happens in Middle East and China for money.  It is certainly hypocritical, the end result of the virtue signaling is simply about money, that’s all.  It is just annoying when they pretend to be virtuous here, but outside the English Speaking world they play a different game.  But whatever.
    toysandme
  • Reply 20 of 57
    designrdesignr Posts: 368member
    lymf said:
    While the question can and should be raised, the fact that it comes from Ted Cruz is just discrediting the whole process :)
    "and Patrick Leahy"

Sign In or Register to comment.