Apple Pulls VPN Apps From China App Store As Russia Signs Law Banning Their Use

Russia has banned VPNs and other software that enables users to gain anonymous access to websites. The new law was signed by President Vladimir Putin on Monday and will come into effect on November 1st (via TechCrunch).

Leonid Levin, chairman of the Duma's committee on information policy and technology, was quoted by state-run media as saying that the new law is not targeted at "introducing new bans for law-abiding citizens" but aims to prohibit access to illegal content.

However, privacy advocates see the law as another way for the Russian government to restrict access to political content that it disagrees with. In 2015, it became mandatory for all user data from Russian citizens to be stored in Russian-based servers, and last year another law was passed making it necessary for internet service providers to retain traffic data for up to a year.

Recently the government threatened to block access to the Telegram encrypted messaging platform unless the company that runs the app provides more information about itself.

Elsewhere, virtual private networks took another blow over the weekend, as reports emerged that Apple has removed the majority of VPN apps from the App Store in China, following regulations passed earlier in the year that require such apps to be authorized by the Chinese government.

The action was first revealed by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China. The company said in a blog post that "all major VPN apps" including its own had been removed from the App Store. It also shared a note from Apple explaining that its app was removed because "it includes content that is illegal in China".
"We're disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China's censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties," ExpressVPN wrote on its blog.
A few hours later, Apple shared a statement with TechCrunch explaining its decision to pull the apps from its App Store in China:
Earlier this year China’s MIIT announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government. We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.
Earlier this month, China reportedly started blocking some features of the WhatsApp messaging service, as authorities continued to tighten controls over the country's internet.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: China, Russia, VPN

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Russia Threatens to Ban Encrypted Messaging App Telegram

Russia has threatened to block access to the Telegram messaging platform unless the company that runs the app provides more information about itself (via Sky News).

The head of communications regulator Roskomnadzor, Alexander Zharov, said repeated efforts to obtain the information had been ignored by the company and warned that "time is running out" for the app.

"There is one demand and it is simple: to fill in a form with information on the company that controls Telegram," Zharov said in an open letter. "And to officially send it to Roskomnadzor to include this data in the registry of organizers of dissemination of information. In case of refusal… Telegram shall be blocked in Russia until we receive the needed information."
Telegram's non-response appears to be down to the repercussions of handing over the requested details: Doing so would effectively add it to the state regulators' registry, which would require it to retain users' chat histories and encryption keys and share them with authorities if asked, according to Russian news agency TASS.

The demand isn't the first time the Russian founders of Telegram – Kremlin, Nikolai and Pavel Durov – have failed to comply with state requests. In 2014, the Durovs refused to turn over data on Ukranian users of Vkontakte, a social network they also set up together.

Telegram claims to split its encryption keys into separate data centers around the world to ensure "no single government or block of like-minded countries can intrude on people's privacy and freedom of expression".

According to the group's policy, it can only be forced to hand over data if "an issue is grave and universal enough to pass the scrutiny of several different legal systems around the world".

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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Gang of dogs in Russia steal woman’s groceries

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Some dog’s don’t deserve the title of man’s best friend.

The dogs that roam the streets of Moscow are known to be pretty intuitive; some of them have even been seen navigating the city’s complex subway system. But when it’s time for some grub, these dogs also know a quick way to score a bite to eat.

A group of three dogs were recently spotted ganging up on a poor woman exiting a grocery store. After a few moments of the dogs jumping on her, she finally gave in and handed the big one a loaf of bread. 

It’s unclear if the woman previously made the mistake of feeding these dogs or if they just run a food-stealing ring that operates out of the grocery store. Read more…

More about Russia, Viral Videos, Dogs, Watercooler, and Videos

Heartbreaking video shows cat being rescued after it froze to the ground

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A lucky cat got a second chance after it was found frozen to the ground in Russia.

In the video, the man filming explains that the cat became stuck after it sought refuge under a warm vehicle. Temperatures then dropped to negative 35 degrees celsius and the cat became frozen to the ground.

The couple filled a bucket with hot water and gently poured it over the cat’s paws to unfreeze it from the ice. 

“It’s most important that the cat’s alive and we’ll be able to help her,” the man can be heard saying in the clip.

In the YouTube description, they explain that the cat was taken to a veterinarian where it was determined to be about seven to nine months old. They stated that the cat was able to walk later that evening, and was adopted the same week.  Read more…

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Here’s Steven Seagal picking up his Russian passport from Vladimir Putin

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So, if you didn’t know already, the world’s favourite ’90s ponytailed action star Steven Seagal has been making some serious waves in former Soviet countries.

He’s been fed carrots by the Belarussian president, rode a horse at the World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan, and hung out quite a bit in Russia, where he’s now a citizen of the country

Image: ALEXEI DRUZHININ/SPUTNIK, KREMLIN POOL PHOTO VIA AP

Seagal went to pick up his Russian passport in Moscow on Friday. He didn’t get it from some random bureaucrat, however. Instead, he received it in person from the country’s president Vladimir Putin. What else for the star of the classic Under Siege? Read more…

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