Apple needs to increase its market share in China, but it shouldn’t have bowed to the country’s smartphone demands to do so.
By removingVPN applications from the iTunes App Store in China earlier this week, it helps the government stifle its residents’ access to internet content it deems inappropriate, including news from around the world.
In particular, Apple’s move makes it harder for Chinese residents to access Google, Twitter, Facebook and other services that are becoming essential for the free flow of information.
In China and other countries that block access to parts of the internet, people can use VPNs, or virtual private networks, to appear like they’re accessing the internet from another location. A user in China, for example, might use a VPN to connect to a U.S. server in order to read U.S. news, browse Twitter or search Google.
VPNs also offer secure connections that are relatively safe from prying eyes.
By removing these apps, Apple is helping China prevent its citizens from accessing that information, or information on popular social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.
CNBC reached out to Apple for comment but a spokesperson was not immediately available. But the company previously told TechCrunch, “Earlier this year China’s MIIT announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government. We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations.’
Yes, Apple needs China, particularly as Wall Street continues to seek growth in iPhone sales — something that’s becoming harder and harder for Apple as competition heats up and as saturation occurs in more mature markets. But making it harder for Chinese users to retain their privacy and access information freely shouldn’t be part of this business strategy.