Apple's Cooperation with Authoritarian Governments

Over the past few years, Apple seems increasingly willing to cooperate with authoritarian governments, uninterested in protecting its own users, and unwilling to actually standup for human rights in broad terms, as often portrayed by its marketing department or direct statements from CEO Tim Cook.

The company is quick to position itself as a prominent human rights advocate in the corporate world, especially regarding issues like user privacy and security. Although, as Ole Begemann has aptly pointed out, this is increasingly disingenuous to the point of deliberately deceiving its customers and the general public. There are even (unconfirmed) reports that the lack of end-to-end encryption that Ole criticizes is actually due to willful coordination and cooperation with the FBI. And like most companies in the industry, Apple employs a highly problematic supply chain, which makes its human rights crusade seem even less authentic.

Most recently, there was a dispute with ProtonVPN (the company that also makes ProtonMail) over an update for its app in the App Store. Proton Technologies claimed that Apple was intentionally blocking the update amid the ongoing crackdown in Myanmar. I agree with Gruber that there is little direct evidence to support this exact claim. While I am willing to give Apple the benefit of the doubt and consider this an inconvenient coincidence, I would not be surprised if this were a deliberate move. After all, Apple has pulled VPN apps from the App Store before. For now, we can assume (as Gruber highlights) that this is yet another issue with Apple’s poorly executed app review process where its so-called rules are applied arbitrarily.

However, there is still reason to be concerned, because Apple does not have a laudable record when it comes to cooperating with authoritarian governments. Below is a brief history of events that I have been tracking so far. If you know of others, get in touch…

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