ProtonVPN devs allege Apple is blocking app updates amid Myanmar unrest

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2021
ProtonVPN says that Apple is blocking updates to its iOS app because of its App Store description, just days after the UN said that people in Myanmar should use Proton apps during a military coup.

Credit: ProtonMail
Credit: ProtonMail


The virtual private network provider said in a blog post Tuesday that Apple took issue with a phrase in its iOS app description amid calls from the United Nations for people in Myanmar to use Proton-based apps during an military coup and internet shutdown.

Specifically, Apple says that the following app description excerpt violates its App Store guidelines: "Whether it is challenging governments, educating the public, or training journalists, we have a long history of helping bring online freedom to more people around the world."

In an email to ProtonVPN, Apple says that the excerpt violates guideline 5.4 and the developer needs to resolve the issue by ensuring the "app is not presented in such a way that it encourages users to bypass geo-restrictions or content limitations."

Guideline 5.4 of Apple's developer rules lays out regulations for VPN apps. It prohibits apps that "violate local laws."

Earlier in March, the United Nations advised people in Myanmar to use secure messaging apps like ProtonMail and Signal to document and share information about "crimes against humanity" in the country. Proton says that, in addition to ProtonMail, the people of Myanmar are also using ProtonVPN to bypass internet crackdowns.

"The people of Myanmar have also turned to ProtonVPN to get around these internet blocks, seek accurate news to stay safe, and report on the killings," ProtonVPN wrote. "In the days immediately after the coup, the sign-ups for ProtonVPN in Myanmar spiked to 250 times the previous average daily rate."

It isn't clear when Proton added the reference to "challenging governments," but the app has been available and regularly updated on the App Store for some time before the guideline violation complaint.

This isn't the first time that Apple has cracked down on VPN apps. In 2017, the company pulled VPN apps from the Chinese App Store amid pressure from the government. Although that move proved controversial, Apple executives said that the company was acting in accordance with local laws.

ProtonMail, which makes the ProtonVPN apps, has been a critic of Apple's App Store policies in the past. The app creators are also part of the Coalition for App Fairness, which rallies developers against certain App Store policies.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29
    personperson Posts: 18member
    Apple is really turning to the dark side
    williamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 29
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,846member
    Just change a couple of words in the description. That’s trivial. Stop whining and just do it.
    uraharawilliamlondoncpsroomar moralestommikelewatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 29
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 1,010member
    Sorry. 

    The agree with Apple protecting its ecosystem from extortionists like epic - and even proton in prior cases. 

    But this one is flat out wrong. 

    Some countries truly have oppressive and evil leadership. Apple is about human rights...right? 

    What’s happening here is human rights are being violated severely and Apple is like “hey that regime is a business partner and in that country human rights abuse is legal. So ... sorry human rights activists, you can’t help anyone. We won’t let you “

    that’s pretty obviously wrong. 

    Fix it Tim. 
  • Reply 4 of 29
    Apple is a corporation. They need to make money. Governments can stop that or help that. It's clear Apple only cares truly about profits. Anytime they can appear woke in safe countries, like America, to help their bottom line, they will do that. But in countries where they cannot be woke, like in Saudi Arabia or majority Muslim countries, their wokism won't be popular so they won't place it above their profits. This is why they are nothing but virtue signaling when they release a rainbow wrist band or some other nonsense.

    Apple is selling out to the highest bidder. And right now that appears to be Myanmar's current government. Remember that next time you think they really care a bout social justice. Nope. Its just a marketing tactic to people who care about it. The company doesn't, and the moment it isn't profitable it'll be dropped.
    muthuk_vanalingamcloudguymobirdbeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 5 of 29
    crowleycrowley Posts: 9,320member
    Pretty lame Apple
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 6 of 29
    j2fusionj2fusion Posts: 145member
    This isn’t about corporations. It’s about president. If they allow it then others will say “well, you let so and so do it”. It’s a trivial change so do it and shut up. I think 2 things. One is payback for earlier issues and Two is publicity. 
  • Reply 7 of 29
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 864member
    j2fusion said:
    This isn’t about corporations. It’s about president. If they allow it then others will say “well, you let so and so do it”. It’s a trivial change so do it and shut up. I think 2 things. One is payback for earlier issues and Two is publicity. 
    "Precedent". I know 4 years of "president" makes it difficult.  ;)

    I'd agree if it was a line about explicitly bypassing regional restrictions for Netflix as an example. That gets Apple into conflict with another company.

    In this case the sentence that Apple is objecting to is more nuanced and subtle. "bring online freedom to more people around the world".

    This may be more about China than Myanmar.
    j2fusionwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 29
    DAalseth said:
    Just change a couple of words in the description. That’s trivial. Stop whining and just do it.
    Sure, that would be the expedient way.  Remove the words and everything is okay.  But is it really okay? "Challenging governments" does not singularly connote "violating local laws".  There are myriad ways to challenge governments without running afoul of the law.  

    Don't ask don't tell seems to be Apple's position.  Proton can be used how VPN's around the world are used.  Just don't say that they are going to be used how VPN's around the world are used.  Sort of weasel-like in an unnecessary way.  In conjunction with other recent acquiescing in Russia and China (continuous), Apple's human rights stance seems more advertising than actual advocacy.

    Thing is, your advice isn't wrong.  It's the means that justifies the end.  Your wording though... seems callous and dismissive of the context surrounding Myanmar.




    muthuk_vanalingambeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 9 of 29
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,846member
    Sorry. 

    The agree with Apple protecting its ecosystem from extortionists like epic - and even proton in prior cases. 

    But this one is flat out wrong. 

    Some countries truly have oppressive and evil leadership. Apple is about human rights...right? 

    What’s happening here is human rights are being violated severely and Apple is like “hey that regime is a business partner and in that country human rights abuse is legal. So ... sorry human rights activists, you can’t help anyone. We won’t let you “

    that’s pretty obviously wrong. 

    Fix it Tim. 
    And as soon as they allow this phrasing, the app will be banned by the oppressive governments, and the App store might be banned by a few as well. Everyone knows what ProtonMail is good for. There is no reason to make it obvious enough to paint a target of your b***.
    edited March 2021 magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 29
    mknelson said:

    This may be more about China than Myanmar.
    It's about money. Always has been, always will be.
  • Reply 11 of 29
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,006member
    DAalseth said:
    Just change a couple of words in the description. That’s trivial. Stop whining and just do it.
    I have to agree with you. I understand the app maker wants to extol their own personal virtues as "challengers of governments" and "deliverers of freedom" but now is not the time and Apple's App Store is not forum to play these kinds of games. This app is a tool that people need, and need now. Now is the time for pragmatism and stopping the pain. They can get back to their grandstanding and self aggrandizing signaling after the crisis is over.  
    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 29
    This is Proton, painting Apple as Evil, there was no issue, they knew exactly that this would happen, and staged this on purpose. they where approved in the past and took this opportunity to stir the anti Apple sentiment. Just change the wording as it was and move on. Apple is not a government and should stay away from politics that is why the guideline is there in the first place. Judging by the comments, they are either Proton Employees or they just do not see that they are being manipulated ...
    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 29
    All cellular services in Myanmar have had visits from the regime. They (and Apple) either do as they are told or they are shut off. Cellular services are taken over by the army if they do not follow orders given. 

    In many ways this is comparable to the way ISPs +++ in the USA hands over everything including their customers grandmothers toilet paper to the NSA if NSA wiggle their pinky. 
  • Reply 14 of 29
    dewme said:
    DAalseth said:
    Just change a couple of words in the description. That’s trivial. Stop whining and just do it.
    I have to agree with you. I understand the app maker wants to extol their own personal virtues as "challengers of governments" and "deliverers of freedom" but now is not the time and Apple's App Store is not forum to play these kinds of games. This app is a tool that people need, and need now. Now is the time for pragmatism and stopping the pain. They can get back to their grandstanding and self aggrandizing signaling after the crisis is over.  
    "Her skirt was too short. She had it coming."
    beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 15 of 29
    Proton is just like Epic. They use rule breaking and manufactured drama to gain publicity. It’s a shame a lot of consumer buy into it. 
    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 29
    crowleycrowley Posts: 9,320member
    Proton is just like Epic. They use rule breaking and manufactured drama to gain publicity. It’s a shame a lot of consumer buy into it. 
    It's not even remotely the same.
    beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 17 of 29
    dewme said:
    DAalseth said:
    Just change a couple of words in the description. That’s trivial. Stop whining and just do it.
    I have to agree with you. I understand the app maker wants to extol their own personal virtues as "challengers of governments" and "deliverers of freedom" but now is not the time and Apple's App Store is not forum to play these kinds of games. This app is a tool that people need, and need now. Now is the time for pragmatism and stopping the pain. They can get back to their grandstanding and self aggrandizing signaling after the crisis is over.  
    I don't understand your sentiment here.  The underlying premise, ensuring the tool is available to the people, is sound.  The rhetoric though... not so much.  Why wouldn't Apple's App Store be the place to advocate for social issues?  Apple uses it to highlight social issues and often shines the spotlight on devs/apps that do as well.  What would be considered more grandstanding and sef-aggrandizing? 
    1.  Bringing attention to your stance on social issues during a period of social unrest; potentially risking revenue. 
    2.  Bringing attention to your stance on social issues when nothing is going on and there's no perceived risk to business and profit.  ←It's this one.  It's more grandstand-y.
         The cynic in me would say "why not both", but the human in me says it's 2.  

    Again, the right idea is to remove the offending language and get back to the business of helping the people.  There we agree 100%.  Your delivery though, like DAalseth's, is a bit tone deaf.  It's as if you both are assuming Proton's motives are completely self serving.


  • Reply 18 of 29
    nicholfdnicholfd Posts: 736member
    dewme said:
    DAalseth said:
    Just change a couple of words in the description. That’s trivial. Stop whining and just do it.
    I have to agree with you. I understand the app maker wants to extol their own personal virtues as "challengers of governments" and "deliverers of freedom" but now is not the time and Apple's App Store is not forum to play these kinds of games. This app is a tool that people need, and need now. Now is the time for pragmatism and stopping the pain. They can get back to their grandstanding and self aggrandizing signaling after the crisis is over.  
    I don't understand your sentiment here.  The underlying premise, ensuring the tool is available to the people, is sound.  The rhetoric though... not so much.  Why wouldn't Apple's App Store be the place to advocate for social issues?  Apple uses it to highlight social issues and often shines the spotlight on devs/apps that do as well.  What would be considered more grandstanding and sef-aggrandizing? 
    1.  Bringing attention to your stance on social issues during a period of social unrest; potentially risking revenue. 
    2.  Bringing attention to your stance on social issues when nothing is going on and there's no perceived risk to business and profit.  ←It's this one.  It's more grandstand-y.
         The cynic in me would say "why not both", but the human in me says it's 2.  

    Again, the right idea is to remove the offending language and get back to the business of helping the people.  There we agree 100%.  Your delivery though, like DAalseth's, is a bit tone deaf.  It's as if you both are assuming Proton's motives are completely self serving.


    They are.  Go read their CEOs blog.  He has a hard on for Apple.  Some posts almost sound like a crazy person who thinks they were personally wronged.
    tommikelemagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 29
    nicholfdnicholfd Posts: 736member

    temperor said:
    This is Proton, painting Apple as Evil, there was no issue, they knew exactly that this would happen, and staged this on purpose. they where approved in the past and took this opportunity to stir the anti Apple sentiment. Just change the wording as it was and move on. Apple is not a government and should stay away from politics that is why the guideline is there in the first place. Judging by the comments, they are either Proton Employees or they just do not see that they are being manipulated ...
    EXACTLY!  

    Go read the CEOs blog, if you want to see more evidence of this.
    tommikelemagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 29
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,853member
    crowley said:
    Proton is just like Epic. They use rule breaking and manufactured drama to gain publicity. It’s a shame a lot of consumer buy into it. 
    It's not even remotely the same.
    This is exactly what Proton is doing.  Why people are being so dramatic about it just shows how ignorant they are about bigger-picture issues.  Change the app description and move on.  Jeez... SJW's out in full force now.
    mobirdmagman1979watto_cobra
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