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Apple chief defends pulling VPN apps from China store

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Apple chief executive Tim Cook has defended the company's move to pull VPN apps from the App Store in China, saying that in this case the law was on the side of China's government.

He contrasted this with the stance that Apple took against the FBI last year when a court demanded that Apple provide access to data on an iPhone, which had been used by one of the terrorists involved in the San Bernardino attack in December 2015, where he claimed that the law had been on Apple's side.

In a statement issued overnight, Cook said the Chinese central government started tightening the regulations associated with VPN apps in 2015. 

"We have a number of those on our store. Essentially, as a requirement for someone to operate a VPN they have to have a licence from the government there," he said.

"Earlier this year, they began a renewed effort to enforce that policy. We were required by the government to remove some of the VPN apps from the app store that don’t meet these new regulations. We understand those same requirements on other app stores, as we check through that’s the case.

Cook said that there were still hundreds of VPN apps in the App Store, including hundreds by developers outside China. 

"We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries we follow the law wherever we do business," he said. "We strongly believe in participating in markets and bringing benefits to customers is in the best interest of the folks there and in other countries as well."

Cook claimed Apple believed in engaging with governments even when it disagreed. 

"(In) this particular case, we’re hopeful that over time the restrictions we’re seeing are loosened, because innovation really requires freedom to collaborate and communicate," he said.

"I know that is a major focus there. That’s sort of what we’re seeing from that point of view. Some folks have tried to link it to the US situation last year. They’re very different. 

"In the case of the US, the law in the US supported us. It was very clear. In the case of 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 that we don’t state our point of view in the appropriate way, we always do that."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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