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Apple slammed for removing privacy apps from Chinese app store

Apple is under fire for pulling "most major" virtual private network (VPN) services from the Chinese version of its app store this past weekend. The company did so in response to a rule from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) that bans unlicensed VPNs.

"Earlier this year China's MIIT announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government," the company said in a statement on the change. "We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations."

That explanation hasn't quieted critics. A VPN can make it (digitally) look as if your computer is browsing the web from a different part of the world and encrypt data you receive and send, features that allow people in China to get around "the Great Firewall" of state internet censorship. That means Apple's compliance with the MIIT ban sets a "very dangerous precedent" in other countries with state control of internet access, said a tweeted comment from one VPN maker.