Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Skype Removed From Chinese App Stores

Paul Mozurnov (Hacker News, MacRumors):

“We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law. Therefore these apps have been removed from the app store in China,” an Apple spokeswoman said Tuesday in an emailed statement responding to questions about Skype’s disappearance from the app store.


A Microsoft spokesman said Skype had been “temporarily removed” from Apple’s store and that the company was “working to reinstate the app as soon as possible.” But the spokesman did not address Skype’s absence from a variety of major third-party Android app stores. Because Google’s services are largely blocked in China, Android users revert to alternate stores for downloads, and Skype’s main app was not available on popular ones run by Chinese tech giants like Huawei and Xiaomi.


This sort of thing represents one of the true dangers of single-source App Stores on general purpose computers with no side-loading fallback, and is why we should be proactively working to make it illegal. It’s not that Apple is malicious per se, or even that they’re particularly slow at reviews or whatever (though that has been the case at times too), but the mere fact that they represent a single, easy to pressure choke point. Apple themselves have reacted to this appropriately when it comes to the hardware by removing more and more of their own ability to affect it once it’s been sold and giving that power to the owners instead. That’s not just a positive for owners’ privacy and security (and in turn a selling point), it also reduces Apple’s exposure and liability. If they don’t hold a given set of data or power in the first place, then nobody can go after them for it.

Unfortunately on the software side they have not sought any of the better tradeoffs available between security and vetting vs owner power and decentralization, and in turn find themselves in the crosshairs for every single app. Not even just from governments though they’re most coercive, but from any public cultural/religious interest group at all. Since Apple has to approve everything, Apple is also seen (correctly) as directly responsible for everything on the App Store. The result has been exactly as you’d expect: they’re more conservative on average about what sort of content they’ll allow, not merely about objective issues like security.

Previously: Apple Pulls VPN Apps From China App Store, Apple Removes New York Times Apps From Chinese App Store.

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