China is well known for its online censorship and surveillance tactics, but earlier today news broke that Apple has removed all virtual private network (VPN) apps from App Store in China. This means Apple users in China can not avail online anonymity anymore and their privacy is at high risk.
ExpressVPN, a British Virgin Islands-based VPN provider, was the first one to notice the issue when their app was removed from the App Store. Upon further digging, ExpressVPN discovered that Apple had removed all major VPN apps from the App Store.
In their blog post, ExpressVPN wrote that:
“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. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties.”
A screenshot shared by ExpressVPN shows Apple’s notification about the removal of their app from the Store.
Another VPN service provider “StarVPN” Tweeted that their app has also been removed from Chinese App Store.
We just received notice that @Apple removing all the @VPN apps from the @China app store.
— Star VPN (@star_vpn) July 29, 2017
Another VPN service provider VyprVPN told HackRead that their app has also been removed from the app store. In their blog post, VyprVPN wrote that their “VPN support is built into the iOS operating system so users can continue to use VyprVPN on iOS without the App by using our manual iOS VPN setup instructions.”
Since technology is awesome, another good news is that those users who have set up their billing address outside of China can still download and use the VPN apps from other territories.
Just last week, it was reported that China is forcing its Muslim citizens to install spyware on their devices so the government authorities can spy and monitor their online activities.
This came as no surprise since the search engine giant Google, and social media giant Facebook is already banned in China. However, the users outside of China have heavily criticized Apple for aiding China in its war against online privacy.