Apple Blocks ProtonVPN Updates During Fallout From Myanmar Coup

Apple Government Apps Privacy

The country of Myanmar saw widespread protests after the military coup on February 1, 2021. The military killed more than 250 people and imprisoned more than 2,500. On March 17, the United Nations asked Myanmar citizens to gather and submit any evidence of “crimes against humanity.” They even explicitly recommended using ProtonMail and Signal. On that same day, Apple blocked updates for the ProtonVPN app, which saw exponential growth during and after the coup, because of the language used in its description, specifically the “challenging governments” part. Andy Yen, one of the founders of Proton Technologies, wrote:

Apple says it blocked our security updates because our app is described as a tool to “challenge governments… and bring online freedom to people around the world”. Given the current context, Apple’s actions could not be more insensitive.

Apple has a rich history of thwarting individual sovereignty. For example, the company removed all VPN apps from the App Store in China after the government made them illegal in order to maintain its iron grip on the internet within the country. They also removed an app called during the peak of the protests in Hong Kong which was heavily used by protestors in order to avoid police.

Sources / Relevant Material

  1. ProtonVPN "When Myanmar needs ProtonVPN the most, Apple stands in the way of human rights" by Andy Yen (23 Mar 2021)