Apple and Amazon Leave Users in China Exposed
Matthew Little, 7 Aug 17

Decision to drop VPNs means Chinese regime can better control and monitor the web activities of Apple and Amazon clients in China

A woman walks past an Apple store in Beijing on August 3, 2017. Apple has removed software allowing internet users to skirt China's "Great Firewall" from its app store in the country, the company confirmed, sparking criticism that it was bowing to Beijing's web censorship. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

Apple and Amazon, two of the largest tech companies in the world have silently acquiesced to censorship demands of the Chinese regime’s new cybersecurity law.

Amid falling sales in China—its second largest market—Apple has cut virtual private network (VPN) apps from its Chinese Apple store. The apps provided a rare window to free information for people in the world’s most populous country.

The move could further Cupertino’s efforts to win favor from the Chinese communist regime but cost it the credibility it won in its battle against an FBI order to develop software to crack an iPhone 5C in 2016.

Amazon, which provides cloud computing services to other companies, has done the same through its Chinese vendor, Beijing Sinnet Technology. The move could leave companies there exposed to deeper monitoring and censorship.

The moves come at the behest of China’s Ministry of Public Security, which functions as the regime’s telecom regulator.

VPNs create a secured, encrypted connection between two users. In Apple’s case, the apps allowed users to access region-restricted websites and bypass internet censorship, providing one of the few avenues to free information through the Great Firewall censorship system.

Amazon has also followed suit, with Sinnet notifying clients of the web giant’s cloud computing services that they must stop using circumvention software.

In Apple’s case, cutting the apps, and earlier moves to drop news and social media apps from its Chinese app store, could keep the company on the regime’s “tolerate” list.

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