VPN Apps Gone From The China App Store
China is known for its internet filter, commonly referred to as the “Great Firewall”. This firewall is aimed at restricting access to overseas websites. However, users have been using VPNs to get around it for a long time. This January, Beijing took further action to ban all VPNs not approved by the government. The approved VPNs must abide by the state regulations and use the state network infrastructure.
This decision by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has led to the step taken by Apple and a spokesperson for the company issued the statement “We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.”
ExpressVPN and Star VPN were the two major providers and both of them criticized the move made by Apple on Saturday when they were informed that their products would no longer be offered in China.
“Our preliminary research indicates that all major VPN apps for iOS have been removed,” ExpressVPN said in a statement, and addressed the move as “surprising and unfortunate”. They went on to add “We’re disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts,”
Star VPN is afraid that it might set a precedent for others to follow as they tweeted: “This is a very dangerous precedent which can lead to same moves in countries like UAE etc. where the government controls access to the internet.”
A spokesperson from GreatFire.org told the CNBC reporters that the few companies that have not yet faced the crackdown of Beijing might end up collaborating with the authorities and further added “Those that protect their users’ security will be removed.” He added “Apple is now an integral part of China’s censorship apparatus, helping the government expand its control to a global scale.”
Apple has faced criticism for the decision taken by the company, but we can see the logic behind it. Apple cannot afford to lose China as its market. Roughly 20% of the world’s population lives in China and it is the biggest potential market for companies like Apple. In the first three months of 2017, the revenues generated from China alone were $10.73 billion. This was just $2 billion short of the whole of Europe. The company only announced earlier this month the plans to build a data center in China to store its local iCloud customers’ personal details.