Removing unlawful apps better protects user data security

By Liu Lulu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/2 23:03:39

Days after Apple removed unauthorized VPN (Virtual Private Networks) apps from its Chinese App Store, another American technology company Amazon announced a ban on VPN services from its cloud computing platform. VPNs are used to skirt online censorship, and the removal of the unlawful apps conforms to Chinese online regulations. However, some Western media outlets have started to hype the app removals, claiming that these companies are bowing to China's censors at the sacrifice of their Chinese customers' human rights.

China's VPN policy remains unchanged. According to the VPN regulation issued in January, all businesses operating within China need to properly register with the authorities and those hosting unregistered apps will face criminal penalties. Some VPN apps on Apple and Amazon have not been properly registered, and their removal is nothing to make a fuss about.

Some operators worry that registration would give the Chinese government access to their customers' private information, and certain Western media outlets accuse China of intruding on users' privacy and freedom of speech. China has reiterated that VPN regulations aim to protect customers' data and will have no negative effects on law abiding enterprises and individuals. The databases of unauthorized VPN providers may lack sufficient protection and this will pose huge security risks to customers. "Our measures aim to better regulate the behavior of China's VPN market and they will only target unregistered businesses and individuals providing VPN services for cross-border use," Zhang Feng, chief engineer of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, was quoted as saying.

Certain Western media, for instance, The New York Times, hypes that Apple's "quiet capitulation" to China's censorship sets "a dangerous precedent," citing the firm's legal battle against the FBI last year, where Apple refused the FBI's request to unlock a terrorist's iPhone. The comparison to the Apple-FBI battle is unfair. China and the US have different legal systems. While Apple's refusal to the FBI conforms to US laws, providing unregistered VPN services is illegal in China. The firm should follow the law wherever it operates. "Like we would if the US changed the law here, we'd have to abide by them in both cases," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in defense of his company's compliance with the Chinese VPN demands.

The significance of online regulation is self-evident. The penetration of the Islamic State's ideology is partly due to lax regulation on Facebook and other social media. The West already suffers from a lack of online regulation. Instead of pointing fingers at China, it should spend more time on tightening Internet management.

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