Tech

Apple removes foreign VPN apps from Chinese app store

Apple removes foreign VPN apps from Chinese app store

Apple has taken down virtual network providers, or VPNs, from its App Store in China, succumbing to the government's pressure to maintain the internet censorship in the country.

The notification was first shared by ExpressVPN, a VPN provider based out of the British Virgin Islands which also operates in China. Government officials denied a story from Bloomberg, which stated that the country's mobile operators had been told to ban VPN apps by early 2018, but other steps have clearly been taken.

Software made outside China can sometimes be used to get around China's domestic internet firewalls that block content that the government finds objectionable.

While internet crackdowns often peak every five years, ahead of a key Chinese Communist Party congress, this year's efforts cover fresh ground, a likely indication that stricter controls of things like VPNs will persist after the congress this autumn.

VPN provider ExpressVPN said it had received a notice from Apple that its software would be removed from the China App Store "because it includes content that is illegal in China". ExpressVPN spokesperson said that they are extremely disappointed not just in Chinese government but also by Apple's support to such a demand. Golden Frog president Sunday Yokubaitis can not hide his dismay over Apple's decision.

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Most of the most popular foreign VPNs in China were no longer accessible in the App Store on July 29.

ExpressVPN reminded Chinese users that they could access App Stores outside of China by listing a foreign billing address, and that their apps for Windows, Android, and - intriguingly - Mac operating systems remained available.

Apple is in the middle of a localisation drive in China, and named a new managing director for the region - a new role - this month.

The report cites several VPN makers, including ExpressVPN and Star VPN, after the two companies posted public messages revealing that Apple sent them letters notifying them of their removal from the China app store. China is requiring its big three phone carriers to block access to VPNs by February 2018 in a campaign aimed at "cleaning and standardizing" access to the internet.


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