Apple removes VPN services used by the Chinese to skirt Beijing's control of information. “[W]e follow the law wherever we do business,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. For critics, compliance with the Chinese government is a change of strategy due to poor sales performance. Apple's revenues fell 10 per cent compared to 2016.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Apple CEO Tim Cook has defended his company's decision to comply with the Chinese government's demand to remove Virtual Private Networks (VPN) software from its App Store.
VPNs are often used to skirt censorship and surveillance in countries with tight restrictions on internet use.
In China, activists and ordinary users rely on them to get around the Great Firewall of China, a set of legal and technological tools used by Beijing to block access to "controversial" web content like democracy, Tibet, social unrest, religious freedom, etc.
To offer VPN services in China, companies, like Apple's App Store, must be authorised by the government.
As a result of its compliance, the US-based company has been criticised, accused of “aiding Chinese censorship”. In its reaction, Apple said it disagreed with China’s position but had to comply with the country’s laws.
"We would obviously rather not remove the apps,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said recently. "But like we do in other countries we follow the law wherever we do business.”
Cook says that comparisons with the United States last year's legal battle - when Apple denied its FBI help to unlock the iPhone of a dead terrorist - are unfair.
Mr Cook said comparisons to a legal battle in the US last year - in which the firm refused to help the FBI unlock a dead terrorist's iPhone - were unfair.
"They’re very different,” he said. "In the case of the US, the law in the US supported us. I was very clear. In the case of China, the law is also very clear there. Like we would if the US changed the law".
Cook's critics claim however that the deal with the Chinese government is actually a change of strategy following poor sales performance in the Asian country. In fact, Apple CEO’s remarks were made during the firm’s quarterly earnings call.
While the firm performed strongly in most of the world, it continues to struggle in China where revenues dropped 10 per cent compared to this time last year, to slightly more than US$ 8 billion.
Apple's flagship iPhone is losing market share to a slew of local competitors who offer improved and cheaper products.