APPLE HAS BEEN CRITICISED for its decision to remove virtual private network (VPN) services from its App Store in China, with reports claiming that 60 were binned over the weekend.
In January, new state regulations ruled that only authorised VPNs could be used in China in a bid to prevent web users from circumventing the 'great firewall of China', making most existing VPN services in the country illegal.
Apple confirmed that it's bowed to the wishes of the Chinese government in a statement given to the AFP. A spokesperson said that it will remove apps that don't comply with the law from its China App Store, including services based outside the country.
"We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations," the spokesperson said. "These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business."
Apple didn't confirm the number of VPN apps that have been removed so far, but reports claim that the number is around 60.
This, unsurprisingly, hasn't gone down well with VPN providers. ExpressVPN said in a blog post that it was "disappointed" in Apple's decision, which "represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date."
The firm received an email from Apple over the weekend, confirming that the ExpressVPN app would be removed from the China App Store "because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines."
"We are troubled to see Apple aiding China's censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties," ExpressVPN said.
Star VPN has also been quick to slam the move, saying on Twitter: "This is very dangerous precedent which can lead to same moves in countries like UAE etc. where government control access to internet."
Apple's decision also hasn't gone down well with Edward Snowden, who said the move "crosses the red line of human rights."
Apple has done much good for privacy and security in recent years, but actively assisting censorship crosses the red line of human rights. https://t.co/gzhRPqs5g9— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) July 29, 2017
Just last week, the Russian government followed in China's footsteps and passed a bill that bans methods of internet privacy including virtual private networks (VPNs), proxies and Tor.
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