updated 09:17 pm EDT, Sat October 5, 2013
Critics claim Apple kowtowing to China with app removal
Apple's decision this past summer to remove a censorship circumvention tool from the Chinese App Store has drawn criticism from some claiming that the iPhone maker is kowtowing to that country's authoritarian government. Users of Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo recently voiced their frustrations online, according to CNN, claiming that Apple showed it has no integrity in removing the app Open Door. The app is still available in other App Stores outside of China.
The app in question is a browser that masks users' identities as they surf the Internet. It also circumvents China's well-publicized censorship protocols, allowing Chinese users access to banned material on the Internet. It was available in the Chinese App Store until July of this year, when Apple pulled the program.
Prior to its removal, Open Door was seeing around 2,000 daily downloads, according to the Daily Mail. The developers say they received no prior notification from Apple that their app was about to be pulled. They claim that the removal was unjust, given that the app is only a browser and that any information accessed comes at the user's own discretion
Apple countered that apps are beholden to the laws of the countries in which they are sold.
Despite their disagreement with Apple, Open Door's developers say they will not challenge the decision. They say they fear retaliation from Apple if the issue were to become more publicized.
"Unfortunately," one developer told CNN, "we're not aware of any app developer ever [who was successful] in challenging Apple's decision. In fact, we won't be surprised if Apple decides to pull our app from all App Stores and/or terminates our account in retaliation."
Apple's decision drew complaints from social media users and Chinese anti-censorship protestors. "The fruit is contaminated," one Sina Weibo user wrote. "Where is your integrity!" wrote another.
Apple has previously pulled apps from the Chinese App Store in order to meet government censorship requirements. In April, the company removed a book-selling app that gave users access to banned texts.
The Open Door development is indicative of the troubles U.S. technology firms face doing business in China. While the world's most populous nation is a prime market for U.S. firms, its restrictive policies often run counter to American ideals.