Chinese Government Co-Ops Apple Into Cracking Down On VoIP

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iOS app developers who have their software distributed in China have been asked by Apple to remove any software such as CallKit that allows the integration of VoIP calling service into their apps. One app developer posted in a forum that their app was rejected by Apple’s review process because it made use of CallKit. According to the post, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has requested that CallKit functionality be deactivated on any app that is available on the China App Store.

Making it hard for Chinese To Use VoIP

Apple terms it a request which is a rather charitable way of saying that in fact it is a requirement for developers if they want their app made available in the China iOS App store. Apple says that VoIP calls will still be allowed in China but apps themselves will not be allowed to take advantage of CallKit’s intuitive look and feel. CallKit was introduced as part of iOS 10 and is a way to integrate calling services into an app. It doesn’t provide VoIP services itself, instead it provides a user interface. Banning its use will not stop developers from being able to integrate VoIP in their apps, but it does make it harder.

Cooperating with the government

Last year Apple purged its App store of Microsoft’s Skype and other VoIP apps in China in response to demands made by the government. It also removed hundreds of VPN apps which have not been banned outright but must obtain government approval in order to operate. Some apps and web services such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram Gmail, etc are not subject to vendor-based censorship and as a result China blocks them at the network level.

A little hypocritical

Rather unsurprisingly Apple’s cooperation with China’s censorship policy has not gone down well with politicians in the United States who have reprimanded the company for failing to adhere to a moral obligation of permitting free speech. Ironically Apple CEO Tim Cook has rather hypocritically criticises the data privacy policies of Facebook arguing that privacy is a human right.