Tim Cook hopeful China will loosen regulations on VPN applications

Over the weekend, Apple made the controversial decision to remove VPN applications from the App Store in China in response to local laws. CEO Tim Cook was asked about this decision during the company’s Q3 earnings call this evening…

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Cook first explained the law in China, which essentially states that developers of VPN services must have a license from the government. While the regulation was first implemented in 2015, it wasn’t until earlier this year that the central government in China started a “renewed effort to enforce that policy.”

The central government in China, back in 2015, started tightening the regulations on VPN apps. Essentially, as a requirement for someone to operate a VPN, they must have a license from the government there. Earlier this year, they began a renewed effort to enforce this policy.

Thus, Apple was required by the movement to remove “some” of the VPN apps from the App Store, though there are still hundreds available:

“We were required by the government to remove some of the VPN apps from the App Store that didn’t meet the new regulations. We understand those same requirements on other App Stores. Today, there’s still hundreds of VPN apps on the App Store, including hundreds from developers outside of China.”

Cook explained that Apple would rather not remove the apps, but it is forced to comply with laws where it does business:

“We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries, we follow the law wherever we do business. We strongly believe in participating in markets and bringing benefits to customers.

We’re hopeful that over time the restrictions we are seeing are loosened.”

From there, Cook explained that while some are likening the China VPN situation to the San Bernardino iPhone 5c situation last year, they’re actually very different:

“We believe in engaging with governments even when we disagree. Innovation requires freedom to collaborate and communicate, and I know that is a major focus [in China]. Some folks have tried to link it to the U.S. situation last year and they’re very different. In the U.S. case, the law in the U.S. supported us. It was very clear. In China, the law is very clear there. Like we would if the US changed the law here, we have to abide by them in both cases. That doesn’t mean we don’t state our point of view in the appropriate way.

That’s probably more than you wanted to know, but I wanted to tell you.”

Read all of Cook’s comments in our full Q3 2017 live blog right here.


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