Apple Removing VPN Apps From Chinese App Store… Russia Banning VPN Apps Too

The news is popping up all over the place when it comes to VPNs. First to China where Apple is removing VPN apps from the Chinese app store:

The BBC understands that as many as 60 VPNs were pulled over the weekend.

Apple said it was legally required to remove them because they did not comply with new regulations.

It refused to confirm the exact number of apps withdrawn, but did not deny the figure. It added that dozens of legal VPN apps were still available.

This of course ties into a story that I’ve been reporting on for the last month or so. This of course has VPN operators nervous. Marty P. Kamden, NordVPN’s CMO, said this:

“We never had an Apple app in China as we were expecting similar issues – that’s why we didn’t get affected by the removal from the App store. NordVPN works in China on desktop apps, and we are currently developing a solution for mobile apps, including iOS and Android. Currently, our VPN works with Windows with no problems.”

“At the same time, we are shocked to see how big companies comply with China’s censorship of free word. NordVPN stands for freedom of speech, and we will do all we can to make sure Internet users in China have full access to Internet. We think that Apple might not realize full repercussions of removing VPN apps from China, since there are also many freedom fighters or those in opposition to the government who need VPNs to remain anonymous or face a serious danger to their safety.”

At the same time this is going on, Russia is going to ban VPN apps as well staring on the 1st of November:

The law, already approved by the Duma, the lower house of parliament, will ban the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) and other technologies, known as anonymizers, that allow people to surf the web anonymously. It comes into force on Nov. 1.

Leonid Levin, the head of Duma’s information policy committee, has said the law is not intended to impose restrictions on law-abiding citizens but is meant only to block access to “unlawful content,” RIA news agency said.

Now, this is likely an attempt to ban any sort of access to outside content that these two countries don’t like. But beyond that, how will this affect VPNs that are brought into China and Russia by those who travel to those two countries? If I have a VPN on my computer, will it still work if I travel to one of those countries and try to connect? That is where I can see a business getting screwed over by this. If I am protecting corporate communications with a VPN, and it is now banned and off-line what happens then? Also, what happens if you are clearing customs and there’s VPN software on my computer? Will it get seized. There’s a lot of unknowns here that I hope get answered and quickly.

UPDATE: Marty P. Kamden, NordVPN’s CMO reached out to me after seeing this story and gave me a comment about the Russian situation:

“The most worrying aspect of banning VPNs in Russia, the same way as in China, is the fact that many political activists would lose their anonymity and can face a very real danger. We are watching the Internet regulation developments in Russia and China with great concern, and want to express our will to continue providing access to unrestricted Internet to the people of those countries.”

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