Shareholders urge Apple to adopt revised transparency reports for App removals

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iPhone event (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Apple is holding its annual shareholder's meeting in March.
  • Some shareholders are urging the company to adopt new transparency reports regarding apps removed from its platform.
  • They seem worried about Apple meeting its commitments to protect human rights.

Apple shareholders have urged its board of directors to vote in favor of revised transparency reports that would give a clearer picture of how many apps Apple removes from its App Store at the behest of governments, according to new documents filed in advance of its shareholder's meeting next month.

The filings, reviewed by iMore, come from Virginia-based Azzad Asset Management and shareholder engagement group Open MIC. The former states:

We are writing to urge you to vote in favor of Proposal 6 on the Company's proxy. The proposal requests the Board of Directors revise Apple's Transparency Reports to provide clear explanations of the number and categories of app removals from the App Store, in response to or in anticipation of government requests, that may reasonably be expected to limit freedom of expression or access to information.

The filing notes that Apple's transparency reports, in their view, "do not sufficiently disclose the types or categories of apps the company has removed from the App Store, nor do they examine the extent to which either company-initiated or government-requested app removals may limit human rights."

The information cited comes from Open MIC which states:

Despite Apple's strong claims to support human rights and free expression, the company is reportedly removing tens of thousands of applications from its App Stores across the globe without a direct takedown request from governments, and without any public transparency. Many of these apps are likely tools for pro-democracy organizing or freedom of information and communication. However, Apple's current transparency reports provide scant numerical detail about a tiny fraction of app removals, while omitting vital contextual information regarding what types of apps are removed, and what actions prompted their removal.

Reports cited include a New York Times article stating that 55,000 apps have disappeared from the App Store in China since 2017, the vast majority of which were removed "in anticipation of concern from the Chinese government". It goes on to state that Apple's preemptive actions have an adverse impact on human rights, and that Apple is failing to live up to its own stated human rights commitments. It further states that this failure "poses reputational, legal, and financial risks" and concludes that "further transparency is badly needed."

Shareholders will vote on the proposal and others at the Annual Meeting of Shareholders on March 4.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9