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Apple removes VPN services from the App Store in China

31 July 2017, 01:12 | Gina Pena

Screenshot of the notification ExpressVPN received from Apple about the removal of ExpressVPN’s iOS app from the China App Store

Screenshot of the notification ExpressVPN received from Apple about the removal of ExpressVPN's iOS app from the China App Store

Apple's decision to succumb to China's pressure and take down VPN providers from the country's App Store follows the company's move in announcing its first data center in China in the southwestern province of Guizhou, also to comply with a regulation for foreign firms to store a bigger portion of their data within the country. It was told that those VPNs that are approved would only use government infrastructure.

The move is in line with the Chinese government's effort to censor open Internet.

According to the New York Times, at least three companies, ExpressVPN, Star VPN, and VyprVPN, had their applications removed by Apple.

Beijing has shut down dozens of China-based providers and it has been targeting overseas services as it bids to tighten its control over the internet, ahead of the Communist Party congress in August.

The company also shared a note from Apple, which explained that their app has been removed from its Chinese store because "it includes content that is illegal in China". Golden Frog president Sunday Yokubaitis can not hide his dismay over Apple's decision.

VPNs are the only way individuals and companies in China are able to access websites ordinarily blocked by the government, including Google, Facebook and Twitter.

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People who use VPN services in the country have the ability to "bypass China's so-called 'Great Firewall, '" Reuters reported.

In a statement on Sunday, an Apple spokeswoman confirmed it will remove apps that don't comply with the law from its China App Store, including services based outside the country.

This is certainly not the first concession Apple has made to retain access to the Asian country's population of almost 1.4 billion people; Apple is building a local data center in China to accommodate new cybersecurity rules.

Users in China accessing a different territory's App Store (i.e. they have indicated their billing address to be outside of China) are not impacted; they can download the iOS app and continue to receive updates as before.

China's internet regulator defended the crackdown earlier in the week, saying recent measures were part of an ongoing campaign aimed at "cleaning and standardizing" access to the internet.

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