Apple Removes VPNs from Russia’s App Store, Restricting User Access

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Written By Vikas Jangid

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Apple Removes VPNs from Russia

Apple has removed a significant number of VPN applications from its App Store in Russia, acting upon a request by the country's communications regulator, Roskomnadzor.

This move comes amidst Russia's ongoing efforts to restrict internet access and tighten its grip on online information.

VPN Apps Disappear from Russia’s App Store

The news first surfaced through a report from the Russian news agency Interfax, which indicated that Apple had taken down 25 VPN apps following a demand from Roskomnadzor.

Source: Twitter/TechCrunch

VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are tools that encrypt internet traffic and allow users to bypass geographical restrictions and access blocked content. Due to Russia's heavily censored online environment, many users rely on VPNs to ensure unfettered web access.

VPN Providers Confirm App Removal

Several VPN service providers confirmed the app removals. Le VPN and Red Shield VPN informed TechCrunch that they had received official letters from Apple regarding the decision.

The letters stated that the apps were being removed from the Russia App Store due to a request from Roskomnadzor and because they allegedly contained content deemed illegal in Russia, in violation of Apple's App Review Guidelines.

Apple Complies with Roskomnadzor’s Request

The letter sent by Apple to VPN service providers, including Red Shield VPN, argued that the apps violated Russian law. It emphasized that applications "must comply with all legal requirements in any location where you make them available."

While the specific reason for the removals remained unclear, the letter referenced a takedown request from Roskomnadzor authorized under a specific article of Russia's federal law.

Latest Move in Russia’s Crackdown on VPNs

This incident represents the latest development in Russia's ongoing effort to restrict VPN usage. In the lead-up to the country's March election, the government had already banned VPN advertising.

VPN service providers, however, have expressed frustration over the lack of transparency surrounding the app removals.

They argue that they have extensive experience in navigating Russia's internet censorship mechanisms and believe Apple's actions have essentially handed the job of restricting VPN access to the Russian authorities.

Apple and Russia Remain Tight-Lipped

Apple has not responded to requests for comment on the matter. Additionally, inquiries directed at the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. have also gone unanswered.

The situation highlights the complex relationship between tech companies and governments, particularly in countries with a history of restricting online freedoms.

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