back to article Apple: Sure, we banned VPN iOS apps in China, but, um, er, art!

Apple has told the US government it cooperated with China's demands to block VPN services so it could get other concessions from the Middle Kingdom on human rights. The Cupertino watchmaker said in a letter [PDF] to Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ted Cruz (R-Zodiac) that while it did cave to China's demands it axe VPN apps …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In order to protect our profit ...

    ... we had to destroy your freedom.

    1. msknight Silver badge

      Re: In order to protect our profit ...

      Exactly. President Xi is clamping down harder than ever, so if Apple thinks it's going to get anywhere with him on working on granting better freedoms, it's work is definitely cut out for it. Westerners are reporting harder clampdown and more checks on whereabouts. Things are getting tougher, not easier. Especially towards the end of this video explains - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0RXyzBmsvc

  2. redpawn Silver badge

    Government Friendly...

    not people friendly. Like roaches perfectly adapted to survive.

  3. 45RPM

    A non story

    If Apple were to stop selling in China (well it’s that or remove VPN (and other apps) from the store) then the only people who’d be hurt are the Chinese. Better to submit to the will of the government so that iDevices can still be sold in China - otherwise the only option for the Chinese will be Android devices which are locked down to the dictatorship approved specifications and which are worse from a privacy point of view.

    Besides, Apple has given to the Chinese government with one hand (complying with this directive) and taken a whole lot more with the other (making it easier than ever to, in effect, sideload from a compiler). Download VPN source from the internet, build, and install your home built app on your device. No need for the store - so who cares what’s allowed there or not? Easy.

    Whichever side of the Android / iOS debate you’re on (and perhaps, like me, you’d prefer the debate to go away and for people just to buy the device that suits them best without getting religious about it), surely we can all agree that choice is a good thing and it drives the market forward. There are only two dogs in the Phone OS fight - and taking one of them away isn’t going to help anyone. We need more dogs - not less.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: A non story

      They could easily walk away, putting principles ahead of cash.

      .. That's not going to happen.

      1. 45RPM

        Re: A non story

        @tiggity

        But, as I point out, if they walk away then everyone loses. Including the Chinese people. And the only ‘win’ is that they get to be smug about it. Don’t you think that they’re smug enough already? I think that there’s more than enough smug in the world!

        Surely it’s better to comply - and provide a nice, easy, way of evading the restriction? They’ve done that - and, at least in my opinion, this is a better solution to the problem than more wanton smuggery.

        1. james 68

          Re: A non story

          and provide a nice, easy, way of evading the restriction

          By "allowing" Chinese users to only access "government approved" communication apps which are constantly monitored and provide backdoors to access the devices at will? Yes.... good Apple.... glorious Apple.... bow to the Apple... my preciousss Apple... Whoops, almost fell down the rabbit hole there.

          1. 45RPM

            Re: A non story

            @James 68

            You didn't actually read what I wrote, did you? You just jumped right in with your own prejudices and assumptions. No. The 'nice, easy, way of evading the restriction' is to install from source - not from the app store. I use OpenVPN - you can download it here (https://github.com/AnhTVc/OpenVPN-IOS) and then build and install it on your iOS device without having to trouble yourself with the AppStore - or any official restrictions - at all.

          2. 45RPM

            Re: A non story

            @james 68

            Incidentally, a wise man (benefit of the doubt, anyway - it was certainly a sensible thought) once wrote "Being stuck in a room with people who have diverse tastes makes for much more interesting conversation than the conversational circle-jerk when everyone likes the same thing."

            I'd like to add an addendum that, for such a conversation to work, both parties have to listen. Or, at least, read what was previously written.

    2. Danny 5
      Coat

      Re: A non story

      Wait what? A technical "atheist"?

      There's no room for moderate people on el reg, what on earth are you doing here?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A non story

      "If Apple were to stop selling in China (well it’s that or remove VPN (and other apps) from the store) then the only people who’d be hurt are the Chinese"

      I'm pretty sure the Chinese would bring out the iPlone X in next to no time fill the gap...

      1. 45RPM

        Re: A non story

        @AC

        There are plenty of iPhone lookalikes in China already, although to my eyes one phone looks much the same as another. Rounded rectangular shape? Check! Big screen? Check! Available in a selection of discrete or gaudy colours? Check! I don't think I can work up much excitement for the form, I certainly wouldn't claim that one is more ground-breaking or revolutionary than another.

        The secret sauce is in the OS. That's where competition and choice is required. If Google has the field to itself in China, as it most certainly would if Apple pulled out, then (in my view) that would be a bad thing for the consumer. And a cloned iPhone wouldn't be running iOS - it might look iOSish, but it'd be just a skin on Android.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A non story

      Can you elaborate on how Android devices "are locked down to the dictatorship?"

    5. Two Lips

      Re: A non story

      "Better to submit to the will of the government so that iDevices can still be sold in China - otherwise the only option for the Chinese will be Android devices which are locked down to the dictatorship approved specifications and which are worse from a privacy point of view."

      Bullcrap. Any Android device can be unlocked and reflashed to alternative versions with far MORE privacy than anything Apple. Furthermore ANY android device is far more sideloadable than ANY iOS device.

      The only non-story is your comment.

  4. trevorde

    The price of freedom...

    ... is $10B USD per year

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: The price of freedom...

      dividing by Chinese population (~1.3 Bn) roughly $10 per head.

  5. jdoe.700101

    Surely Apple is just observing the laws of the country. Whether one agrees with the laws or not, is a different issue. However from Apples perspective they have two choices, stay and observe the laws, or leave the country. If they were to walk away, one could argue that are not fulfilling their duty to their shareholders to maximise their profits, assuming that is in fact a duty.

    As for the senators, maybe they could focus on reigning in the spooks in their own country first.

    1. Andrew Moore

      and they can't really leave the country because that's where all their products are manufactured.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        And that's the long and short of it, isn't it Andrew?

        They have trapped themselves.

  6. John70

    Shame Apple didn’t have the balls to say that they will move their production out of China.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      $10bn says no way in hell will they EVER find the balls.

      The Chinese own their ass. Apple made this bed and now they have to sleep in it.

      1. 45RPM

        @ecofeco

        In the dim and distant past, back in the days of the Raj, the tendrils of the British Empire were able to claim India because the Maharajahs practically invited the Brits in. The Maharajahs got to keep their palaces, and the British would help administer the place and exploit the poor on their behalf (skimming off a fat profit, and keeping anything that they particularly liked like the kohinoor, dontchaknow). The consequences of inviting a greedy and rapacious regime in to 'help run' your country weren't fully considered - at least, not until the bullets started flying, and perhaps not even then.

        I mention this only because, in recent years, Western businesses and governments have been busily handing over their crown jewels to those helpful chaps in China, who only want to assist us with those tedious tasks that we can't be bothered with. Little things like running infrastructure and manufacturing. They'll do it so much cheaper than we can. Until we discover that we've dismantled all our management and manufacturing capacity - and oh shit! The price just went up.

        Apple isn't the only business showing such a lack of foresight. Name any Western business or country you like - we're all in the same boat. It's quite a leaky boat, of course, but don't worry - China can fix that for us…

        Incidentally, I don't blame China for behaving in this way. I'm British. We built an empire in just this manner - and it'd be most hypocritical of me to object to the taste of our own medicine.

    2. wayward4now

      ...and bring back their money from Ireland.

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I am just wondering if the Chinese government don't allow Apple to offer VPN apps in the App Store why you can buy Chinese made Android phones that have the VPN settings in the OS still active?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think its company apps dedicated to bypassing the firewall that are banned more than the generic ones used by businesses.

      If Theresa May had her way I expect VPN's would be banned here too!

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge
        Joke

        Maybot

        "If Theresa May had her way I expect VPN's would be banned here too!"

        Don't be silly, UKGov would never do anything dumb like that.

        They'd ban all VPNs being used for "naughty" things, and allow them for "nice". You know, in the same way they do for encryption. Encryption for secure business transactions is OK, encryption for terrorist peado remoaners is bad.

  8. Steve Todd

    VPN is built in to iOS

    (look under settings->general->VPN)

    Have Apple disabled that also?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fake News

    Chief Cheeto actually asked Xi what's the best way to keep the Useless of A in the hearts and minds of the glorious Chinese people who also love him. Sad

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So funny

    Only a Senator whould believe that guff.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh, Apple...

    Incidentally, I read that as:

    Apple's vice president for public outcry Cynthia Hogan.

    /I'm sure they must have one

  12. Thomas Wolf

    Everyone here does realize that Apple is a for-profit corporation, right? It's not a human rights endeavor. It's not a government. It's a company whose primary responsibility is to make money for its shareholders. And China is a big market in which to do just that.

    Apple is selling widgets in China. It needs to follow Chinese laws to do so. Saying "Apple could just walk away" is naive nonsense - they'd probably get sued by their shareholders for ignoring the largest market in the world. If you care about human rights violations in China, get your government to affect change there or protest in front of the Chinese embassy or stop buying Chinese widgets in protest - don't lay that responsibility at the feet of soulless companies doing what they're supposed to: make money.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      "Everyone here does realize that Apple is a for-profit corporation, right?"

      Of course, but how does that relieve them of the responsibility to behave in an ethical fashion? Oh, I forgot -- making money is the only ethic that counts anymore.

      For my part, one of the more important things I consider whenever I contemplate buying a product or service is the ethics of the company offering it.

  13. Jurassic
    Megaphone

    Laws of the land

    You may be surprised to learn this, but ALL foreign companies (including Apple) must adhere to the laws of the country in which they do business.

    Companies that break the law, in China or in any other country, face prosecution.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Laws of the land

      Nobody is scolding Apple for not breaking Chinese law. They're scolding Apple for enabling it by continuing to do business there.

  14. Lomcovaks

    What is it with these global tech companies? Last year Apple refused to help the security services of a democratically elected government crack the iPhone of a terrorist but now they're on their knees assisting the one party state Chinese government to prevent their citizens having some degree of net privacy. Who's side are they on?

  15. jimstead

    Last I looked, governments require businesses to obey laws. The EU seems to expect it, no matter how bizarre.

  16. JJKing Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Which side, which side?

    Who's side are they on?

    Why their own of course.

  17. Sammy_b

    I still use ExpressVPN to access the App Store. Skype's no different. All this does is make me want to tell more people to use VPNs.

  18. GeekPanda
    Thumb Up

    China + VPN in 2018

    Setup L2TP VPN manually on iPhone/iPad here: Settings > General > VPN

  19. GeekPanda

    Just wanted to confirm, Astrill (China-based company), Seed4Me and some other small VPN providers still work if you setup VPN manually from Settings > General > VPN > L2TP VPN

    lol

  20. sjgmbob

    ExpressVPN

    ExpressVPN+1, don't touch NordVPN, it simply doesn't work, I wonder why it's recommended all over the internet ...

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