Apple will remove “some” VPN applications from the App Store in China, following new regulations to crack down on services which bypass the country’s massive firewall to access overseas sites.
The move, drawing sharp criticism from VPN service providers, comes after the government passed laws in January banning all VPNs that are not approved by state regulators, Reuters reported. Approved VPNs must use state network infrastructure.
Apple said in a statement it will remove apps that don’t have a license from the government.
“These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business,” Apple added.
VPN providers accuse the iPhone maker of bowing to pressure from the country’s cyber regulators and unnecessarily supporting its heightened censorship regime, Reuters said.
The government has been shutting down China-based VPN providers and targeting overseas services as it tightens control over the internet ahead of the Communist Party congress next month.
In another move to comply with China’s more restrictive cyber security law requiring global companies to store information locally, Apple announced in mid-July it would set up its first data centre in China. The centre is part of a planned $1 billion Apple investment in the southern province of Guizhou, one of the poorer regions of China.
China’s controversial new cyber security law requiring strict data surveillance and local storage for internet companies came into force on 1 June. The law, which was passed in November 2016, restricts ISPs from collecting and selling users’ personal information which is irrelevant to their services.