Become a MacRumors Supporter for $25/year with no ads, private forums, and more!

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
52,050
13,665


Earlier this week, popular VPN provider Proton made headlines by linking Apple's rejection of a security update to its ProtonVPN mobile app with the ongoing political upheaval in Myanmar. In response, Apple today provided MacRumors with a timeline of the events regarding the app update.

app-store-blue-banner.jpg

In a blog post dated March 23, Proton founder Andy Yen wrote that Apple rejected "important updates" for its VPN app related to security, on the same day that the UN recommended people in Myanmar use ProtonMail, an encrypted email app also developed by Proton. Yen claimed that sign-ups for ProtonVPN "spiked to 250 times the previous average daily rate" in the days following the military coup, making ProtonVPN an essential tool for people on the ground, and accused Apple of putting profits ahead of human rights by blocking the update.
To safely convey such sensitive information to UN investigators and ensure whistleblowers are not attacked or killed, the UN recommended people use ProtonMail or Signal to report evidence of wrongdoing.

ProtonMail is not the only Proton app being used by activists and protesters in Myanmar. The people of Myanmar have also turned to ProtonVPN to get around these internet blocks, seek accurate news to stay safe, and report on the killings.

In the days immediately after the coup, the sign-ups for ProtonVPN in Myanmar spiked to 250 times the previous average daily rate.

Specifically, Apple rejected the update due to an excerpt from the app's description which encouraged users to "bypass geo-restrictions or content limitations." ProtonVPN's App Store description previously read:
Whether it is challenging governments, educating the public, or training journalists, we have a long history of helping bring online freedom to more people around the world.
Proton told MacRumors earlier this week that the rejection "came completely of the blue" on March 17, given that the app had always had the same description, without any issue or rejection from Apple.

Now, Apple has provided MacRumors with a more concise and specific timeline of events. In a statement, Apple says that all apps made by Proton are available and have remained available for download in Myanmar, seemingly rejecting the narrative put forth by Proton that it had deliberately withheld the update due to the situation on the ground.

Apple says it approved ProtonVPN's latest App Store update on March 19 and says, correctly, that Proton published the update to users two days later, on March 21. ProtonVPN, another two days later, published a blog post correlating the rejection to Apple limiting free speech and human rights in Myanmar.
  • March 18 - Apple holds up app update, requests a change to the wording in ProtonVPN app's description
  • March 19 - Update approved by Apple following requested change in wording
  • March 21 - Proton releases update to users on the App Store
  • March 23 - Proton publishes blog post, correlating update rejection to political situation in Myanmar
Apple's full statement to MacRumors:

All apps made by Proton, including ProtonVPN, have remained available for download in Myanmar. We approved the most recent version of ProtonVPN on March 19. Following this approval, Proton chose to time the release of their update, making it available on March 21, while subsequently publishing their blog post on March 23.

Proton founder Andy Yen told The Verge that due to the emergency in Myanmar, Proton decided to remove the excerpt from the app's description that Apple had objected to, which "finally" allowed the update to be released to users.
Due to the emergency in Myanmar, we removed the language about challenging governments which Apple found objectionable, and the app was finally approved.
Despite the clarification from Apple, what remains Proton's point of contention is the sudden strict enforcement of App Store guidelines. App Store rule 5.4 states that VPN apps must "not violate local laws," and Apple viewed ProtonVPN's description as a violation of the rule, despite Proton's claim that Apple had no issues with it in the past.

It's still unclear what motivated Apple to enforce this particular legal rule more strictly on this occasion, but the timing is certainly unfortunate for the company from a PR perspective, given Myanmar's current political situation.

Meanwhile, Apple continues to push back against the perception that it is abusing its position as platform arbiter, as it faces multiple watchdog investigations and antitrust legal cases brought against it by developers unhappy with its App Store policies.

Article Link: Apple Provides Timeline for ProtonVPN App Update, Suggesting App Store Rejection Was Unrelated to Current Events in Myanmar
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Blkant and sirgib

gnasher729

macrumors P6
Nov 25, 2005
17,806
5,259
So Apple rejected the App on March 18th, received and approved a changed version on March 19th, Proton waited two days to release it on March 21th, and then complained two days later on March 23rd? That's style. "Apple is holding up our app release, which we sat on four two days".
 
Comment

neuropsychguy

macrumors 65816
Sep 29, 2008
1,442
2,512
Remember to take the actions of a company whose sole purpose is obscuring online activity with a healthy bit of skepticism (the same applies to Apple, although they do much more so their revenue is not tied just to running a VPN). I have a Proton Mail account and use VPNs every day but I don't trust VPN companies.

I value online privacy but most of these "privacy" companies are more than a little sketchy.
 
Last edited:
Comment

Nuno Lopes

macrumors 6502
Sep 6, 2011
383
384
Lisbon, Portugal
Proton Product Manager acted as most would do in this situation:

1) Got the update rejected to due Apple only politics.
1) Get the update out as fast as possible. Even if means changing something that you don’t want or fee the need to change.
2) Once the update is out ... than complain.

Epic did the other way around as only some can do ...

1) Got the update rejected
2) Complained the ruling
3) Update was rejected again
4) Decided not to do what they don’t want neither feel the need and go to courts
5) Apple tried to strong hold their neck by voiding all licensing agreements across all their products ... an attitude rejected in court.
6) ... story still going on

So I can only conclude that the people criticizing any of these procedures actually believe that Apple App Store modus operandi is beyond approach.

The truth is that Apple power over digital services and business is absolutely incredible. This power is mainly empowered by a combination of device market share and App Store policies (one in two Americans use one at least). Greater power than Facebook or Google. They can curve the digital service market to fit their own agenda anyway they please at the moment.
 
Last edited:
Comment

The Phazer

macrumors 68030
Oct 31, 2007
2,868
527
London, UK
Apple's defence is awful here.

Apple explicitly said that it would no longer block bug fixes over these issues months ago, but has here, in clear breach of it's guidelines.

It's defence that the app remained available is untenable, when it potentially contained bug fixes that prevented discovery by dystopian governments.

App stores are fundamentally evil.
 
Comment

Rochy Bay

Suspended
Apr 5, 2016
271
114
Cupertino, CA
So Apple rejected the App on March 18th, received and approved a changed version on March 19th, Proton waited two days to release it on March 21th, and then complained two days later on March 23rd? That's style. "Apple is holding up our app release, which we sat on four two days".
No, they did release the app. If you knew anything you would know Apple systems are known for sometimes malfunctioning and not releasing the app at the right times.
 
Comment

Rochy Bay

Suspended
Apr 5, 2016
271
114
Cupertino, CA
Proton Product Manager acted as most would do in this situation:

1) Got the update rejected to due Apple only politics.
1) Get the update out as fast as possible. Even if means changing something that you don’t want or fee the need to change.
2) Once the update is out ... than complain.

Epic did the other way around as only some can do ...

1) Got the update rejected
2) Complained the ruling
3) Update was rejected again
4) Decided not to do what they don’t want neither feel the need and go to courts
5) Apple tried to strong hold their neck by voiding all licensing agreements across all their products ... an attitude rejected in court.
6) ... story still going on

So I can only conclude that the people criticizing any of these procedures actually believe that Apple App Store modus operandi is beyond approach.
Clearly you never submitted an app.
 
Comment

Scipster

macrumors regular
Aug 13, 2020
139
301
Is it just me, or does no else have a problem with the fact that Apple is openly admitting support for Myanmar's military junta here? In no way does Apple's response challenge Proton's claim that the app was rejected for political reasons; just to criticize that they accusation that they are untimely.

I believe fundamental human rights should supersede the local laws enforced in App Store Guideline 5.4. Everyone should have the right to life, liberty, and freedom of speech.
 
Comment

Nuno Lopes

macrumors 6502
Sep 6, 2011
383
384
Lisbon, Portugal
Clearly you never submitted an app.

I so if had I would than conclude ir beyond approach. If I had and complained was a crying baby. Should Proton thank the Gods for approving the App that fast? The base of Proton complaint wasn’t how fast it was approved but why it was not approved in the first place.

I don‘t even understand how this timeline invalidates Proton complaint. They did not like the fact that Apple blocked their app update on the basis of Apple political stance on the wording.
 
Last edited:
Comment

ian87w

macrumors 68030
Feb 22, 2020
2,711
3,418
Indonesia
What I don't understand is, if ProtonVPN is so pro-human rights, then why not just educate their customers to manually set their VPN? iOS allows manual-set VPN. Just list the instructions with the server addresses, etc. Empowering your customers with the actual know-how is the better action.

And do other VPN apps have problems? That's the benchmark imo. If other VPN apps have no issues, then the issue is not with Apple, no?
 
Comment

swingerofbirch

macrumors 68040
It's not unreasonable to think there is a connection.

If Apple sees the downloads are increasing exponentially in one particular country, they might start looking more closely at the app.

Why else would they go through the app description when they hadn't bothered critiquing it before?

And the VPNs aren't supposed to run afoul of local laws. Well I can't say I know a lot about Myanmar's new military government, but I imagine they don't want people using anything to get information out about the killings.

Apple took all the VPNs out of the China App Store. So maybe they do want to thread a needle here. "Challenging governments" is not illegal in most countries in any conventional reading. If you saw that you'd think writing a petition or a referendum. In Myanmar challenging the government right now means you have to plan illegal activities (that are legal in most other countries, things like freedom of assembly) that may get you killed.

Asking to take the language out of a description when the app is trending in one particular country during a coup seems more likely than Apple randomly stumbling upon the language during a routine update. And it's not like they offered an alternative explanation.
 
Comment

entropys

macrumors 6502a
Jan 5, 2007
785
1,275
Brisbane, Australia
Is it just me, or does no else have a problem with the fact that Apple is openly admitting support for Myanmar's military junta here? In no way does Apple's response challenge Proton's claim that the app was rejected for political reasons; just to criticize that they accusation that they are untimely.

I believe fundamental human rights should supersede the local laws enforced in App Store Guideline 5.4. Everyone should have the right to life, liberty, and freedom of speech.
It's just you. The only people mentioning Myanmar is Proton, as a form of clickbait. A complete dog act designed to make out Apple was doing something evil simply because Myanmar was in the news. As if Apple would be talking to the junta in Myanmar! there is no information that the good citizens of Myanmar are even aware of proton VPN until the UN said something about VPNs (after the app was approved, btw).
now Apple might have got overzealous with the "Challenging governments” phrasing in the app, probably thinking about their friends in Washington, but the escalation by proton after their app was approved is pretty dodgy marketing to say the least.
 
Last edited:
Comment

I7guy

macrumors Penryn
Nov 30, 2013
25,624
13,778
Gotta be in it to win it
I so if had I would than conclude ir beyond approach. If I had and complained was a crying baby. Should Proton thank the Gods for approving the App that fast? The base of Proton complaint wasn’t how fast it was approved but why it was not approved in the first place.

I don‘t even understand how this timeline invalidates Proton complaint. They did not like the fact that Apple blocked their app update on the basis of Apple political stance on the wording.

Seems like this was more the case?

"I don‘t even understand how this timeline invalidates Proton complaint. They did not like the fact that Apple blocked their app update on the basis of Proton political stance on the wording."
 
Comment

macsareveryinteresting

macrumors 6502a
Dec 7, 2020
654
374
Colorado Springs
Yep. I honestly thought they were the ones to trust. I use ProtonMail and ProtonVPN, and was going to move to ProtonCalendar when it comes out of beta. Have to rethink this now.
If Apple recommends the app and approves the app, you know it’s safe. And when I go to the App Store to see the app, I can already see why it is specifically approved by Apple.
 
Comment
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.