By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, FEB 19: A coalition of civil, political, human rights, freedom of expression, corporate accountability, privacy, and digital security organizations, asked Apple in a letter to stop enabling China’s censorship and surveillance. In the letter addressed to Philip Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing in the multi-million dollar company, it has expressed grave concerns over “Apple’s confirmed removal of applications from the iOS App Store in China, including 1,000+ Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and news apps like the New York Times and Quartz, as well as the transfer of Apple users’ iCloud data to a Chinese state-run telecom company.”
The letter dated Feb 13 questions the “unethical double standard” that Apple has undertaken, “How can Apple make such a claim while at the same time ensuring that Apple customers in China do not enjoy this right online, putting them at greater risk of well-documented repression?” It describes the problems faced by the common people to have an effective and private user data online. Since relocating China’s Apple iCloud data to mainland China, it has further ensured that one is forced to choose between allowing information flow and refraining from storage and backup measures which the company has effectively developed.
The letter further adds, “China’s censorship and surveillance efforts have a chilling effect on civil society, severely restricting and limiting the civil and political rights of those living under Chinese rule. This includes Tibetans and Uyghurs who are currently enduring systematic repression at the hands of the Chinese government, with more than a million Uyghurs known to be locked up in “re-education camps” and with Tibet ranked as the second least free place on Earth, just behind Syria.” It also mentions the global removal of HKmap.live, a crowdsourced mapping app, which helped Hong Kongers during protests, and Xi Jinping’s designation as the “world’s worst abuser of internet freedom” for the fourth consecutive year by the Freedom House.
“Apple’s app removals and the lack of transparency around their removal also serve to minimize the serious concerns of app developers and global citizens, including many at Apple, who believe in an open and equally accessible web for everyone,” stated the letter.