Apple complies with local laws to operate its businesses worldwide. However, this policy lands the tech company in hot water with human rights activities for implementing changes on its App Store requested by authoritarian governments.
A human rights organization, AppleCensorship has published two new reports accusing the tech company of impacting the fundamental rights of millions of its users as a consequence of doing business with authoritarian regimes in Russia and China.
Last year, Apple and Google removed the “Smart Voting” election app from their Russian app stores at the government’s demand. The opposition spokesperson said the ban on the voting app was “political censorship” as it was designed to boost candidates with the best chance of succeeding against candidates in the ruling party.
The company also tweaked the Russian App Store to show government-approved apps when setting up new iPhones.
Apple recently imposed a 10-minute time restriction on the ‘AirDrop to Everyone’. Although the company says that the time limit would prevent users from receiving unwanted messages from strangers, human rights activities argue that the feature was introduced to hamper resistance movement in Hong Kong where protestors relied on ‘AirDrop to Everyone’ to spread their message.
Previously, the tech company removed Yahoo Financial app from China App Store, a popular religious app “Quran Majeed” on the government’s directive, and hosts apps from a blacklisted Chinese paramilitary group responsible for the Uyghur Muslims genocide in Xinjiang, China and is sanctioned by the U.S for human rights violations.
Apple imposes censorship on App Store and makes compromises in the name of profits
Both reports published by the human rights organization highlight Apple’s censorship of the App Store and compromises with authoritarian governments to retain access to those markets and earn huge profits.
The first report focuses on how Apple censors in Hong Kong. As human rights and fundamental freedoms in the territory shrink, including digital rights, Apple is reluctant to take any commitment to uphold its users rights to access information freely and express their views online.
The second report looks at Apple’s presence in Russia up until the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022 and highlights the issues posed by Apple’s lack of transparency surrounding its App Store policies, including compliance with international sanctions.
The Cupertino tech is a strong advocate of user privacy; the company transformed the digital marketing industry by introducing App Tracking Transparency feature on iOS which mandates apps to seek user permission to track their online activity across third-party apps and websites and preserve user privacy and security.
However, the tech company alters its own policies to safeguard its relations with authoritarian regions for money. Benjamin Ismail, Director of the AppleCensorship project said:
“In the name of profit, Apple censors millions of users from all aspects of society: from activists and political figures to members of vulnerable minorities such as the LGBTQ+ community in Russia or religious and ethnic minorities in China.”