Apple, other companies pull Skype from Chinese app stores at request of government

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in iPhone
Microsoft, Apple, and others have been forced by the Chinese government to withdraw the Skype app from app stores in the country -- and at present there is no timetable for its return to availability.




Microsoft's Skype had been gradually disappearing from Chinese app stores since October, with news of the absence reaching the media on Tuesday. While the Chinese government has issued no official statement as to why Skype has been restricted, it has likely been done so because of the ability to encrypt the communications -- preventing effective government monitoring.

"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. Therefore these apps have been removed from the app store in China," Apple said Tuesday in an emailed statement to the New York Times. "These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business."

A Microsoft spokesman told the New York Times that Skype had been "temporarily removed" from Apple's store and that efforts were being made to "reinstate the app as soon as possible."

Apple isn't the only company affected. The app remains unavailable on Google Play, as well as Android handset manufacturers Huawei and Xiaomi's app stores.

In July, Apple removed virtual private network (VPN) apps from the Chinese App Store, apparently complying with a broader government crackdown on VPN technology. The shutdown followed an earlier crippling of WhatsApp, as well as the retraction of the New York Times app.

In June, China ratified new cybersecurity laws that mandate certain data protections for Chinese citizens. Importantly, foreign firms operating within China's borders must store sensitive data on domestic servers, and must likewise pass security reviews before transferring said data out of the country.

Apple opened a data center in China to comply with the cybersecurity rules that the country put in place. The facility was set up in Guizhou with the help of Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Co. Ltd., and represents a portion of Apple's planned $1 billion investment into the province
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,677member
    Countdown to people claiming Apple is a hypocrite for not building a backdoor into their OSes for the US gov’t…
    Rayz2016ben20watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 22
    is iMessage, with it's built in end-to-end encryption, supported in China ?

    Seems like the logical international communication tool
    and the reason for the Chinese population to move to iPhones,
    more and more over time. ….and as price points allow.
    edited November 2017 watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,730member
    Curious...
    If China's intent is to block communication services using end-to-end encryption if the provider won't share an unlock key with the Chinese government how has Apple managed to comply? For example is Facetime and iMessage not available in China? Maybe they had to remove them from Chinese iPhones? If not and with encrypted WhatsApp, Signal and now Skype being blocked then it seems the inference would be that Apple has provided a key for the appropriate Chinese agency(s) in order to avoid the same fate...
    edited November 2017 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 4 of 22
    Guys ,not enough folks use FaceTime & iMessage in China to justify a ban.They do have no FaceTime installed on UAE iPhones.
    So please stop the whining.
    patchythepiratewatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,730member
    Guys ,not enough folks use FaceTime & iMessage in China to justify a ban.They do have no FaceTime installed on UAE iPhones.
    So please stop the whining.
    IMO I would think Apple probably has at least as many users of iMessage and/or Facetime as Signal and Telegram did considering the Apple services come pre-installed and default, yet the presumably smaller Signal and Telegram encrypted messaging apps have been disrupted by the Chinese government. 
    edited November 2017 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 6 of 22
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,091member
    Apple and other companies often tell the U.S. government to go pound salt because of the Constitution. Does it now dawn on us how fortunate we are that the founding fathers designed a government with limited powers over the citizenry and commerce? Even with the current drives to censor speech considered to be PC incorrect we are still far better off than most of the world.
    patchythepiratemuthuk_vanalingammagman1979jony0watto_cobrabeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 7 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,730member
    lkrupp said:
    Apple and other companies often tell the U.S. government to go pound salt because of the Constitution. Does it now dawn on us how fortunate we are that the founding fathers designed a government with limited powers over the citizenry and commerce? Even with the current drives to censor speech considered to be PC incorrect we are still far better off than most of the world.
    Agreed.
    muthuk_vanalingamrazorpit
  • Reply 8 of 22
    gatorguy said:
    Guys ,not enough folks use FaceTime & iMessage in China to justify a ban.They do have no FaceTime installed on UAE iPhones.
    So please stop the whining.
    IMO I would think Apple probably has as many users of iMessage and/or Facetime as Signal and Telegram did considering the Apple services come pre-installed and default, yet the presumably smaller Signal and Telegram encrypted messaging apps have been disrupted by the Chinese government. 
    You do realize that most people use Android in China.Not that many people in China are interested in only Apple to Apple communications.
    That’s why Wechat is so popular there.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 22
    For the dollar, these companies sell Chinese customers down the river. 
  • Reply 10 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,797member
    gatorguy said:
    Guys ,not enough folks use FaceTime & iMessage in China to justify a ban.They do have no FaceTime installed on UAE iPhones.
    So please stop the whining.
    IMO I would think Apple probably has as many users of iMessage and/or Facetime as Signal and Telegram did considering the Apple services come pre-installed and default, yet the presumably smaller Signal and Telegram encrypted messaging apps have been disrupted by the Chinese government. 

    China doesn't have a problem with criticism. They have local councils who are often critical of the government.

    They also don’t have a problem with privacy. What they have a problem with is widespread dissent. 

    If you and your friends don’t like the government, then fine. Chat about it in private (as many Chinese people do). But if you attempt to broadcast your criticism publicly then you have a problem. (And what the authorities see as criticism is a grey area). 

    iMessage is not a public broadcast medium, so the Chinese authorities aren’t interested in it, so it remains encrypted. In fact, Apple doesn’t have a chat public broadcast medium. 

    Do not mistake China for North Korea. They’re as different as chalk and cheese. 

    Source: a Chinese PhD student. We chat about this a lot, and she gets pretty annoyed when folk say stuff like “bet you’re glad you can rag on the government without getting arrested.”

    She says, “I always could.”  


    edited November 2017 jony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,730member
    gatorguy said:
    Guys ,not enough folks use FaceTime & iMessage in China to justify a ban.They do have no FaceTime installed on UAE iPhones.
    So please stop the whining.
    IMO I would think Apple probably has as many users of iMessage and/or Facetime as Signal and Telegram did considering the Apple services come pre-installed and default, yet the presumably smaller Signal and Telegram encrypted messaging apps have been disrupted by the Chinese government. 
    You do realize that most people use Android in China.Not that many people in China are interested in only Apple to Apple communications.
    That’s why Wechat is so popular there.
    WeChat can be monitored. Can iMessage in China be monitored too so that the government can achieve their stated goal of better protecting their citizen's? No idea where you got the information that Apple users in China, and there's reportedly more than 130M of them (that's millions more than in the US), don't use Apple default communication services. 
    edited November 2017 SoliSolimuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,730member
    Rayz2016 said:
    gatorguy said:
    Guys ,not enough folks use FaceTime & iMessage in China to justify a ban.They do have no FaceTime installed on UAE iPhones.
    So please stop the whining.
    IMO I would think Apple probably has as many users of iMessage and/or Facetime as Signal and Telegram did considering the Apple services come pre-installed and default, yet the presumably smaller Signal and Telegram encrypted messaging apps have been disrupted by the Chinese government. 

    China doesn't have a problem with criticism. They have local councils who are often critical of the government.

    They also don’t have a problem with privacy. What they have a problem with is widespread dissent. 

    If you and your friends don’t like the government, then fine. Chat about it in private (as many Chinese people do). But if you attempt to broadcast your criticism publicly then you have a problem. (And what the authorities see as criticism is a grey area). 

    iMessage is not a public broadcast medium, so the Chinese authorities aren’t interested in it, so it remains encrypted. In fact, Apple doesn’t have a chat public broadcast medium. 

    Do not mistake China for North Korea. They’re as different as chalk and cheese. 

    Source: a Chinese PhD student. We chat about this a lot, and she gets pretty annoyed when folk say stuff like “bet you’re glad you can rag on the government without getting arrested.”

    She says, “I always could.”  


    Since you're on the subject, what about Skype? Why would the Chinese have an issue with that and not Facetime?

    As for iMessage I was not aware that the multi-recipient message capabilities of it differed all that much from WhatsApp or Signal. How so? And why would the Chinese not be interested in ferreting out individual and potentially dangerous dissidents no matter their choice of communication service? Your explanation doesn't make sense to me so perhaps you could take a few moments to expand on it. 
    edited November 2017 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 13 of 22
    As a person who does business with Chinese companies, this is another pain in the you know what. Skype was one of the remaining tools for real time collaboration. Now it’s taken away.  Inconvenience is cost.  Just gives me another reason to promote doing business elsewhere in my opinion 
    razorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 22
    gatorguy said:
    Guys ,not enough folks use FaceTime & iMessage in China to justify a ban.They do have no FaceTime installed on UAE iPhones.
    So please stop the whining.
    IMO I would think Apple probably has as many users of iMessage and/or Facetime as Signal and Telegram did considering the Apple services come pre-installed and default, yet the presumably smaller Signal and Telegram encrypted messaging apps have been disrupted by the Chinese government. 
    You do realize that most people use Android in China.Not that many people in China are interested in only Apple to Apple communications.
    That’s why Wechat is so popular there.
    What does Android marketshare have to do with a Microsoft app being removed from the Apple app store?
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 22

    Apple isn't the only company affected. The app remains unavailable on Google Play, as well as Android handset manufacturers Huawei and Xiaomi's app stores.

    I'm confused by this.  There is no Google Play in China.  Hasn't been since 2014.  Skype is definitely available on Google Play.  I'm assuming when mentioning Huawei and Xiaomi that is specific to the products they sell in China and not worldwide.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 16 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,730member

    Apple isn't the only company affected. The app remains unavailable on Google Play, as well as Android handset manufacturers Huawei and Xiaomi's app stores.

    I'm confused by this.  There is no Google Play in China.  Hasn't been since 2014.  Skype is definitely available on Google Play.  I'm assuming when mentioning Huawei and Xiaomi that is specific to the products they sell in China and not worldwide.
    The author probably meant to point out that the 2 large Android app stores run by Huawei and Xiaomi in China, and probably others, also have removed Skype at the behest of the Chinese government. You are correct that there is not an official Google Play store in mainland China.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 17 of 22
    Guys ,not enough folks use FaceTime & iMessage in China to justify a ban.They do have no FaceTime installed on UAE iPhones.
    So please stop the whining.
    Cause and effect is a bit hard to disentangle at this stage, isn't it?

    I think it's time that US went hard after China for all manner of trade restraints that it imposes on our tech sector.

    Unfortunately, we have no b411s, so it's hope rather than expectation....
    watto_cobramuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 18 of 22
    As a person who does business with Chinese companies, this is another pain in the you know what. Skype was one of the remaining tools for real time collaboration. Now it’s taken away.  Inconvenience is cost.  Just gives me another reason to promote doing business elsewhere in my opinion 
    I’m in the same position. Seems like the last few weeks has been a battle of ok, what do we do next?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 22
    I think that skype on Windows or Mac still works. I use skype and WeChat to work with suppliers there.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,797member
    gatorguy said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    gatorguy said:
    Guys ,not enough folks use FaceTime & iMessage in China to justify a ban.They do have no FaceTime installed on UAE iPhones.
    So please stop the whining.
    IMO I would think Apple probably has as many users of iMessage and/or Facetime as Signal and Telegram did considering the Apple services come pre-installed and default, yet the presumably smaller Signal and Telegram encrypted messaging apps have been disrupted by the Chinese government. 

    China doesn't have a problem with criticism. They have local councils who are often critical of the government.

    They also don’t have a problem with privacy. What they have a problem with is widespread dissent. 

    If you and your friends don’t like the government, then fine. Chat about it in private (as many Chinese people do). But if you attempt to broadcast your criticism publicly then you have a problem. (And what the authorities see as criticism is a grey area). 

    iMessage is not a public broadcast medium, so the Chinese authorities aren’t interested in it, so it remains encrypted. In fact, Apple doesn’t have a chat public broadcast medium. 

    Do not mistake China for North Korea. They’re as different as chalk and cheese. 

    Source: a Chinese PhD student. We chat about this a lot, and she gets pretty annoyed when folk say stuff like “bet you’re glad you can rag on the government without getting arrested.”

    She says, “I always could.”  


    Since you're on the subject, what about Skype? Why would the Chinese have an issue with that and not Facetime?

    As for iMessage I was not aware that the multi-recipient message capabilities of it differed all that much from WhatsApp or Signal. How so? And why would the Chinese not be interested in ferreting out individual and potentially dangerous dissidents no matter their choice of communication service? Your explanation doesn't make sense to me so perhaps you could take a few moments to expand on it. 

     In order to subtly push the idea that Apple has given the Chinese a backdoor into iMessage, you’ve overlooked what I wrote in my previous post: China does not have a problem with private conversations that criticise the government. A dissident is only dangerous if he spreads his ideas through a mass communications medium. If you have a complaint then you go through the local councils. 

    Secondly, you don’t know why the app was banned. Is it the app, or does China have a problem with Microsoft? China does have an annoying habit of doing this sort of thing until some sort of show of public grovelling is made and/or a wodge of cash is handed over. 

    And Whatsapp could be banned simply because it belongs to a company that is the very definition of a mass broadcast medium. 

    Now let’s get to the meat of the notion that you are trying to bed in: has Apple given China a backdoor to iMessage

    I doubt it. 

    For one thing, hardly anyone in China uses iMessage, so banning it would not actually provide the Chinese with much leverage against Cupertino. They’re much more likely to ban iTunes.

    If Apple was asked to provide a backdoor, I think they would weigh up the cost of the keys being lost against the small number of Chinese people who use it – then simply remove it from all phones sold in China. 


    But let’s say you’re right: Apple has a backdoor to iMessages that allows them to access mssages and hand them over to governments.  When asked if such a key exists, Apple has said, “No, we can’t intercept and decrypt messages.”  If what you are trying to assert is true, then Apple has been lying to its customers, the public and numerous law enforcement agencies then that breach of trust would undermine their cloud efforts going forward. Cook would be removed and would probably face criminal charges. 

    I just can’t see them taking that risk. 





    edited November 2017
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