What is this about?
The Chinese government has long exerted a tight hold over what apps can be made available in China, with major apps like X, Facebook, and Instagram all banned in the country. The government has also banned entire categories of apps, like VPNs, and most recently generative AI apps. Additionally, mobile game apps require individual licenses in a move ostensibly intended to crack down on gambling.
We last month reported on the latest clampdown to affect app developers.
A new law will require all developers to “file business details” with the Chinese government, in what some are saying amounts to requesting permission to make an app available through the App Store. The law will also require developers to have a company or publisher in China.
The first step toward implementing the law requires app stores to put in place filing systems to ensure that new apps are compliant. The deadline for this was the end of August.
Android app stores comply; Apple seemingly not
Reuters reports that all the Android app stores it checked have complied with this requirement.
Last week, Android-based app stores operated by Tencent, Huawei Technologies, Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo issued notices to app publishers and said they will bar new apps without sufficient paperwork from being featured on their platforms. Some of the notices were seen by Reuters while others featured in blog posts by Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo.
However, the news agency says that there is no sign that Apple is yet in compliance.
Apple has not disclosed how its app store in China will comply with Beijing’s new rules. As of Monday, it is not yet checking apps’ filing status, AppInChina said, citing its own checks.
Apple did not reply to Reuters’ request for comment. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Apple always states that it complies with the law in each of the countries in which it operates, and has done so with some very distasteful laws in China. This includes a 2017 law requiring it to move the iCloud data of local customers to a Chinese data center.
That meant Apple had to partner with a local company for the storage of iCloud data. Apple insists that data is encrypted and only it holds the keys, but there is understandable skepticism about this. And even if it’s true that Apple will require a court order before permitting Chinese law enforcement to access user data, that’s a mere formality in China. Laws and ‘requests’ aren’t so different in China.
This being the case, it seems certain that Apple will comply with the latest law. If it is indeed the case that it hasn’t yet done so, it may be a sign that the iPhone maker is at least willing to show some small sign of resistance by delaying compliance.
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