Proton Founder Accuses Apple of “Giving in to Tyrants”

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The founder of a privacy centric email and VPN service has hit out at Apple for putting profits before human rights.

Andy Yen is the CEO of Proton Technologies, which produces the ProtonMail and ProtonVPN offerings. He argues that the services were created in part to enable activists, protesters, journalists and others to communicate privately and “overcome internet blocks.”

However, Apple recently blocked a ProtonVPN security update after taking offense at the app’s description in its App Store, which stated: “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.”

Apple claimed that in order to resolve the issue, Proton should “ensure the app is not presented in such a way that it encourages users to bypass geo-restrictions or content limitations.”

Yen hit back, arguing that Apple’s actions are at best insensitive in light of current events around the world, and at worst show the tech giant “giving in to tyrants” in order to preserve market access.

“Today, apps like ProtonVPN are a lifeline to the rest of the world for the people of Myanmar who are being massacred. By preventing us from informing users that ProtonVPN can be used to bypass internet restrictions, Apple is making it harder for people to find this lifeline. Apple’s decision will make it even more difficult for the citizens of Myanmar to send evidence of crimes against humanity to the United Nations,” Yen claimed.

“Apple’s actions are also hypocritical. Apple has no problem challenging governments when it is in its own financial self-interest (e.g. avoiding EU taxes or evading anti-trust charges). However, when Proton does it for human rights reasons, it’s suddenly against Apple’s policies.”

As Yen pointed out in his blog post, this is not the first time Apple appears to have “put profits ahead of human rights.”

During the Hong Kong protests of 2020, it removed two apps from its China App Store used by residents to keep up-to-date with local events, after complaints from Beijing.  

In the meantime, Apple continues to push privacy as a key pillar of its marketing campaigns.

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