Tim CookSource: Apple

What you need to know

  • A coalition of civil, political and human rights groups have penned an open letter to Apple.
  • They have called on Apple to stop enabling censorship and surveillance in China.
  • They also questioned Apple's "unethical double standard" in its dealings with the nation.

A coalition of civil, political and human rights groups have penned an open letter to Apple, calling on the company to stop enabling censorship and surveillance in China.

As spotted by Phayul: the letter was signed by groups such as Tibet Action Institute, Free Tibet, Keep Taiwan Free and SumOfUs.

The letter, addressed directly to Phil Schiller, reads:

We are a coalition of civil, political, human rights, freedom of expression, corporate accountability, privacy, and digital security organizations, many of whom are longtime Apple users. Together we represent communities in the US and abroad gravely impacted by Apple's decisions with regard to the Chinese App Store and user information. We are writing to express our serious concerns over Apple's confirmed removal of applications from the iOS App Store in China, including 1,000+ Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and news apps like the New York Times and Quartz, as well as the transfer of Apple users' iCloud data to a Chinese state-run telecom company. Many of our organizations have submitted letters1 to CEO Tim Cook raising these concerns and have yet to receive any response. Given that Apple's removal of VPNs and news apps sets a blatant and unethical double standard for the Chinese App Store, we are now bringing our serious concerns directly to you, the head of the App Store.

The letter highlights concerns such as Apple's "compliance with China's censorship and surveillance demands", which puts the App Store's actions "in direct contradiction" with its claim that "Privacy is a fundamental human right." It continues:

In reality, Apple's actions demonstrate that privacy is only a right for certain people. Since Apple removed VPNs from the App Store, iOS users in China have been left unable to easily protect their internet communications from pervasive surveillance. Apple's closed App Store ecosystem forces users who want to install banned applications to jailbreak their devices and give up the security measures that make Apple devices unique. Additionally, since relocating China's Apple iCloud data to mainland China, Apple has further ensured that hundreds of millions of people are forced to choose between allowing their data to be obtained without effective due process, or forgoing the online storage and backup measures your company has diligently developed.

The letter also mentions incidents such as the HKmap.live app, as well as the removal of the Taiwanese flag for users in Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland China.

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The letter concludes by asking that Apple meets with the group to discuss the concerns outlined, as well as asking that Apple pressure governments to be "specific, transparent, and consistent in their requirements". You can read the letter in its entirety here.

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