Apple has responded to inflammatory allegations made by ProtonVPN following an update block. In a statement, the Cupertino tech giant clarified that the virtual private network app has remained available in Myanmar and that the virtual network provider is providing an inaccurate narration of the events.
The tiff between the two companies started on 23rd March when ProtonVPN said in a blog post that Apple was blocking updates to its iOS apps just days after a United Nations recommendation said that people in Myanmar should use Proton apps amid a crackdown that has forced telecom companies to shut down the internet and social media platforms in the country.
Apple provides a timeline in response to ProtonVPN’s allegations
In the blog post, ProtonVPN explained that Apple had a problem with a phrase in its iOS app description amid recommendations from the UN suggesting people in Myanmar use Proton apps during the military coup and internet shutdown and share information about “crimes against humanity” in the country. In the days following the coup, the sign-ups for ProtonVPN in Myanmar spiked to 250 times the previous average daily rate.
In an email to the virtual network provider, Apple said that the excerpt violates App Store rule 5.4 which outlines policies for VPN apps and says that all apps must “not violate local laws.” The excerpt read: “Whether it is challenging governments, educating the public, or training journalists, we have a long history of helping bring online freedom to more people around the world.”
The Cupertino tech giant is now claiming that ProtonVPN’s version of events is inaccurate. In a statement to MacRumors, Apple said this:
“All apps made by Proton, including ProtonVPN, have remained available for download in Myanmar. We approved the most recent version of ProtonVPN on March 19. Following this approval, Proton chose to time the release of their update, making it available on March 21st, while subsequently publishing their blog post on March 23rd.”
Apple said it approved ProtonVPN’s latest App Store update on March 19 and that Proton published the update to users two days later, on March 21. ProtonVPN then published a blog post two days later connecting the update block to the political unrest in Myanmar.
- March 18 – Apple holds up app update, requests a change to the wording in ProtonVPN app’s description
- March 19 – Update approved by Apple following a requested change in wording
- March 21 – Proton releases update to users on the App Store
- March 23 – Proton publishes a blog post, correlating update rejection to the political situation in Myanmar
Proton founder Andy Yen told The Verge, “Due to the emergency in Myanmar, we removed the language about challenging governments which Apple found objectionable, and the app was finally approved.”
Furthermore, in another statement, ProtonVPN affirmed its original stance on Apple App Store guidelines by saying the tech giant’s response does not address the policy of ejecting apps that are “challenging governments” at all.
“Apple has systematically blocked updates that outline that ProtonVPN can be used to overcome internet blocks used by regimes engaging in human rights abuses. We were forced to censor our app description to get approval from Apple to update our app. We believe that Apple’s policy of rejecting apps which are “challenging governments” is simply wrong. It is telling that Apple’s response does not address this policy at all.”
Proton has been a critic of Apple’s App Store policies in the past and is also a part of the Coalition for App Fairness. This latest incident could not have come at a worse time as it can be construed as retaliation against a developer from Apple’s side.