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Apple pulled 634 apps from the App Store at the request of governments

Apple pulled 634 apps from the App Store at the request of governments
[Photo: Drew Coffman/Unsplash]

Like most other major tech companies, Apple publishes regular transparency reports that details which countries and how often those countries request data on their users. These data requests could be for things like access to a user’s iCloud backup files, access to their emails, or even requests to delete a user’s account.

But Apple’s latest transparency report has a new section highlighting a specific type of government request. For the first time, Apple has revealed which governments have requested that Apple remove apps from the App Store due to those apps violating local laws. As Apple explains in the report:

Table 13 provides information regarding requests from government authorities to remove apps from the App Store based on alleged/suspected violations of local law. Examples of such requests are where law enforcement or regulatory agencies suspect an app may be unlawful or relate to/contain unlawful content. Apple complies with these requests insofar as we are legally required to do so.

In all, Apple received 80 app takedown requests from various governments during the second half of 2018. Those takedown requests covered 770 apps in total. But Apple didn’t remove all 770 apps. The company ended up pulling 634 of the apps, determining the rest of them were not violating local laws. Here’s a breakdown of the countries that requested app removals from the App Store:

  • China: 56 takedown requests covering 626 individual apps.
  • Russia: 10 takedown requests covering 11 apps.
  • Vietnam: 3 takedown requests covering 29 apps.
  • Turkey: 3 takedown requests covering 3 apps.
  • Netherlands: 2 takedown requests covering 8 apps.
  • Austria: 1 takedown request covering 5 apps.
  • Kuwait: 1 takedown request covering 6 apps.
  • Lebanon: 1 takedown request covering 1 app.
  • Norway: 1 takedown request covering 37 apps.
  • Saudi Arabia: 1 takedown request covering 25 apps.
  • Switzerland: 1 takedown request covering 19 apps.

As you can see, the vast majority of app takedown requests came from China. Most of those takedown requests were for apps that violated the country’s pornography and illegal gambling laws. Russia and Norway requested app takedowns due to illegal gambling laws, while Saudi Arabia requested the removal of 25 apps due to privacy law violations. In all, Apple granted 75 of the 80 app takedown requests it received.

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