Apple Blocks ProtonVPN Updates Over App Messaging

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ProtonVPN announced in a blog post that Apple has blocked its app updates, saying this harms users in countries like Myanmar.

ProtonVPN Update Pause

Calling Apple’s actions “insensitive” ProtonVPN says that Apple blocked its updates due to certain messaging used within the app. The email from the App Store Review team says (emphasis added):

Regarding compliance with the 5.4 guideline, specifically, the following information is referenced in your app description:

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.

To resolve this issue, please ensure the app is not presented in such a way that it encourages users to bypass geo-restrictions or content limitations.

The company says this description has been in use for months and only recently came to Apple’s attention. The email was from March 18, and ProtonVPN released an update two days ago according to its app page. The phrase “challenging governments” has been removed.

3 thoughts on “Apple Blocks ProtonVPN Updates Over App Messaging

  • Andrew:
    Looks like ProtonVPN just dodged becoming a NeutronVPN. Agree with @geoduck. Good move on their part. 
    Regarding VPNs, yours truly has yet to bite the bullet. Because of the nature of our work, my profession and our employers/networks have become prime targets of state-sponsored cyber intelligence. My colleagues and I, for example, are regularly spear-fished with offers to attend bogus conferences (submit your abstract, why don’t you?), join various editorial boards or submit publications to suspicious journals with almost legit sounding names (send us your latest manuscripts on vaccine – related studies), so there is that obvious bit, not to mention the regular alerts of attacks on university servers, etc.  
    Relatedly, my wife recently took up a consultancy with a major pharmaceutical company doing vaccine development – again, another prime target. They use a proprietary VPN, but still are under constant assault. However, and here is the rub, they have confirmed to her that they can see everything that she is doing on her company laptop, which she is required to use for business. 
    The problem with commercial VPNs is the same. They can see everything that you’re doing. The question is, how valuable is that to anyone willing to pay for that information to, oh I don’t know, ferret out your contacts and network? Could a company possibly make boatloads more money selling that info to a state actor or their representatives on top of your subscription fee, sort of a Facebook model, but only more consequential to public health? Could a highly motivated state actor with near limitless resources simply defeat that commercial VPN? 
    If the answer to any of the above is ‘Yes’, then does a commercial VPN remain a good value proposition? Does it provide real or a false sense of security? This is less about paranoia than it is about sceptical realism informed by empirical observation and precedent. Even if a company cannot be bought, employees can (recall Twitter and the Saudi Kingdom), and can compromise specific accounts on demand. 
    Given the rapidly expanding range of my subscription services that actually provide value, even if only entertainment (just ponied up for Disney+ because…Marvel), I’ve opted to leave attempts at protecting data security to the major leagues (industry, academia), which after all, are the principal targets, specifically when working with industry-relevant IP. As for my nonprofessional online habits and wanderings, aided by end-to-end encryption where necessary, these are otherwise too…pedestrian to warrant anyone’s espionage resources, even state-sponsored ones. 

  • ProtonMail is being an idiot and Apple is saving them. That phrasing will get the app banned in nearly a third of the countries in the world. They should stop whining and just change a couple of words.

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