Apple’s Silence in China Sets a Dangerous Precedent

A year ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation made an extraordinary demand of Apple. To get inside a dead terrorist’s iPhone, law enforcement officials wanted the company to create a hackable version of the software that runs all iPhones.

To many legal experts, it wasn’t obvious that Apple had a winning case against the request. But facing great legal and political opposition, Apple took a stand anyway. Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, argued that the company had a financial and moral duty to protect its users’ privacy and security. He made clear that Apple would obey American law — but only after trying to shape the law.

The fight paid off. On the eve of a courtroom showdown, the F.B.I. rescinded its request. It is worth underlining this point: When Apple took a public stand for its users’ liberty and privacy, the American government blinked.

Also see:

Apple is pulling VPNs from the Chinese App Store. Here’s what that means.
China's restrictive Internet policies are known for blocking Web users who want to reach Google, Facebook or other banned apps. But now some of those policies are affecting Apple, one of the few remaining U.S. tech giants with a presence in the country — and the issue is raising questions about Apple's moral standing around the world.

Over the weekend, Apple began pulling apps from its Chinese App Store that may conflict with a new Chinese law aimed at shoring up the country's online censorship regime. The removed apps were all providers of virtual private networks, or VPNs. If you're unfamiliar with VPNs, the tools allow users to get around China's “Great Firewall” by making it look like they are actually surfing the Web from some other country. (VPNs have also seen growing interest from U.S. users who are cautious about their privacy.)

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