Published: Tue, August 01, 2017
World News | By Cecilia Wilkerson

Russian Federation and China Clamp Down on VPN Access

Russian Federation and China Clamp Down on VPN Access

While this move on its own will pose an inconvenience to Apple users, it's unlikely to be the last piece of bad news for local VPN providers in China.

Apple has ejected a number of VPN apps from its App Store over in China, including some big-name offerings from major providers, as VPN censorship takes another turn for the worse in the country.

Apple decided this weekend to ban all Virtual Private Network apps in the App Store across China.

Russian Federation and China Clamp Down on VPN Access
Russian Federation and China Clamp Down on VPN Access

Sunday Yokubaitis, the president of Golden Frog, which makes VyprVPN, told The New York Times that their app had also been removed by Apple. For one thing, the law requires any company operating in Russian Federation to store user data on servers physically located within the country (LinkedIn was blocked a year ago for not complying, although the regulations are not enforced uniformly).

Star VPN tweeted it had received notice that Apple was "removing all VPN apps" from the China app store.

This news comes just a few weeks after China announced that a total ban on VPNs - with exceptions for some foreign businesses - would come into effect in February of next year.

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"By setting up a data centre and pulling VPNs, (Apple) is sending a friendly signal to the Chinese government", said Liu Xingliang, head of the DCCI Internet Research Institute.

They also announced they would be banning all VPN services that did not comply with their strict regulations, which includes nearly all foreign based VPN services. Websites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are all blocked in China. It is a social media application developed by local tech giant Tencent. Apple's shipment volume has been on a falling spree in the past two years. This, along with another law that requires chat apps to attach phone numbers from 2018, is ostensibly justified as a means to block access to extremist content, but critics view the crackdown as yet more political censorship. VPNs and proxy websites are now inaccessible if the user does not have enough evidence of legal age or even a passport.

"It may actually be a better business decision for [Apple] to have held the line and shown the moral high ground for the rest of the world, which are the buyers of most of their iPhones", said Stuart Madnick, Professor of Information Technologies at MIT Sloan School of Management, in an interview with TheWrap.

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In China, Apple is dealing with a law that's in place and no real legal footing to mount an opposition. "China is such a key market for Apple that it has to listen". China is one of leading countries where freedom of speech is controlled by the authoritarian regime.

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