On Tuesday, Tim Cook confirmed Apple’s decision to remove VPN apps from the App Store in China as per the government’s request. The CEO said the move responded to recent regulations that require software developers to get approval from national authorities.
The controversy around the issue started last Friday when the tech giant sent out notices to app makers and publishers letting them know that their apps were about to be taken down. Some have deemed this an incoherent action from Apple, a company that usually stands by freedom of speech and civil liberties.
Cupertino would not be the first industry leader to cave to pressure from China, since others like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have complied with the government’s demands in past years in favor of maintaining their businesses afloat there.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 1, 2017
Tim Cook says U.S. and China collaboration are different
Upon learning that several VPN app developers were reporting their forced removal from the App Store, many people claimed this made no sense since Apple had battled this sort of oppression in the past in their own homeland.
One company, Golden Frog, said as much. They make software and mobile apps, including one of the products taken down from the Chinese market: VyprVPN. Its CEO, Sunday Yokubaitis, pointed out that they supported Apple in their battle against the FBI, and that they expected more from them in this situation.
The makers of the iPhone saw themselves embroiled in a legal battle with the Bureau over the privacy and security rights of users when the government agency tried to force them into building a backdoor for the world-famous smartphone after a mass shooting in 2015.
At the time, Apple garnered support from the tech industry and consumers alike, but the FBI managed to crack the shooter’s iPhone without their help in the end. Their unbreakable stand in this scenario was expected to hold for China, but this was not the case.
The Great Firewall of China won’t stop Apple from doing business
CEO Tim Cook told investors during a quarterly earnings call that “the law is very clear” in China, making reference to the fact that companies have to gain government approval to offer their internet products in the country. He said that, if U.S. laws dictated it, they would comply with similar rules as well.
At the same briefing, it was revealed that the company’s iPhone sales had plummeted 10% during this last quarter in the Asian giant, a financial fall that might have influenced the move as well in an effort to play nice with Beijing.
Other tech giants have been guilty of the same sin in the past as they attempt to penetrate the difficult market with their products and services. Facebook content regulation tools reportedly have, among other purposes, the ulterior intent to make the platform viable in China as a censorship filter for political content.