Apple's Chinese app store has been suddenly shorn of privacy software as Russia and China are both clamping down on virtual private networks.
Beijing seems to have had words with Apple about VPNs, because developers like ExpressVPN were suddenly told that their wares are “illegal in China” and breach the App Store guidelines. Another vendor, Star VPN, took to Twitter with its news.
VPNs started disappearing from the app store within hours of the notices going out, but Beijing appears not to be trying to remove VPNs from other software souks. Apple has previously gone to the mat for users' privacy, notably in the case of the San Bernardino shooter's phone. But the iPhone is popular in China and represents one of Apple's few growth markets. So draw your own conclusions as to why Cupertino agreed to remove VPNs.
Moscow's enmity to VPNs is well-known, as laws to ban them has been burbling through the nation's legislature for some time.
President Vladimir Putin has now enacted the law, which has been justified as ensuring that citizens don't see banned websites. Russia won't let its citizens see content such as Wikipedia articles on hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms or Marijuana and the VPN ban means local netizens can't use software to evade state-operated blockers. The ban also, of course, makes it harder to visit sites deemed inappropriate for – ahem - political reasons. Another new piece of legislation compels providers of messaging services to gather users phone numbers. ®