Software meant to help people in China evade the country's internet filters was removed from Apple's app store, The New York Times reported.
China restricts internet use by filtering content, commonly referred to as the Great Firewall, but virtual-private networks (VPN) allow users to get around it. China has been working to suppress these networks, and it seems it might have paid off as software companies are reporting their apps providing VPNs were no longer available in Apple's China app store.
ExpressVPN posted a letter Apple had sent them explaining the app had been taken down "because it includes content that is illegal in China."
And according to The New York Times, a search found multiple VPNs were now missing from the China app store, including the company Golden Frog.
Star VPN tweeted Saturday that their app had also been removed from the store, and commented, "This is very dangerous precedent which can lead to same moves in countries like UAE etc. where government control access to internet."
This is very dangerous precedent which can lead to same moves in countries like UAE etc. where government control access to internet.— Star VPN (@star_vpn) July 29, 2017
ExpressVPN expressed similar concern in a blog post, writing, "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."
In a statement Apple noted that the Chinese government requires all developers offering VPNs to obtain a license from the government, and said, "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."
Greater China is Apple's largest market besides the United States, and according to The New York Times, this is not the first time Apple has removed apps from their store per China's request. Last year, Apple removed a news app created by the New York Times after Chinese officials asked them to.
And just last month, Apple announced they are opening a new data center in the country after China's request for more foreign firms to store their data in the country, The New York Times reported.
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