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Censorship China Microsoft Apple Technology

Skype Vanishes From App Stores in China (nytimes.com) 37

Skype, Microsoft's Internet phone call and messaging service, has been unavailable for download from a number of app stores in China, including Apple's, for almost a month (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), The New York Times reported on Tuesday. From the report: "We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law. Therefore these apps have been removed from the app store in China," an Apple spokeswoman said Tuesday in an emailed statement responding to questions about Skype's disappearance from the app store. "These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business." The removal led to a volley of complaints from Chinese users on internet message boards who were no longer able to pay for Skype's services through Apple. The users said that the disruption began in late October. Skype, which is owned by Microsoft, still functions in China, and its fate in the country is not yet clear. But its removal from the app stores is the most recent example of a decades-long push by China's government to control and monitor the flow of information online.
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Skype Vanishes From App Stores in China

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  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2017 @11:12AM (#55595291)

    ...the more they stay the same.

    Another knee-jerk PRC effort to both:

    1. get better (and ultimately total) visibility into private communications of its citizens AND
    2. pave the way for a local competitor to take that market share and enable the flow of graft to government patrons

    Sad, but not surprising.

    • 1. get better (and ultimately total) visibility into private communications of its citizens

      Why so ?
      Skype has always (even pre-Microsoft buyout) been clear that they'll collaborate with local law enforcement as required by local law when asked through the official legal channels.
      Even better (for China) : since the overtake by Microsoft, Skype has been progressively moved to a more centralized architecture :
      - supernodes have been replaced by actual servers
      - latest versions of smartphone apps and Linux client are basically just standard web apps (so much more easy for China to Man-in-the-Middle)

      It's

  • by evolutionary ( 933064 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2017 @11:18AM (#55595355)
    He's been on a very aggressive campaign to stop the flow of in information to/from foreign countries since 2 years ago, and with a fair amount of success. Shutting out any media service that contains any information critical of major government policies (Facebook, Google) as well as any search engines using search engines from those companies (startpage iquick also will not function in China) as well as apps/service that encrypt the data from the Chinese government (WhatsApp and likely many others). Last March policy was implement to limit the influence of foreign books on "young minds".

    https://www.theguardian.com/wo... [theguardian.com]

    Another relatively new policy is requiring passpost information for virtually any telecommunications service. That includes buying simcards for phones, trading currency, and even getting a VOIP number in China. (making it the most expensive place to get a local VOIP line). I say "successful" because I've seen in China virtually everyone on Wechat (made by one of the 2 big software companies in China, TenCent). Not only to people keep their entire social lives, have virtually all chat conversations and probably 1/2 of vocal calls going through this app, but virtually 50% of all small-medium retail store transactions are conducted using predeposited money to Wechat accounts. Even taxi drivers are often paid through WeChat. It's so wide spread many people are keeping less cash on their persons in favor of WeChat pay. Ironically, companies collecting this information often do it through the most insecure means. On paper forms, that are sent two and frow, as well as taking pictures of your passpost to register your ID for a sim card on another cell phone. (yikes).

    The direction of the current Chairman is clear: Keep data from leaving, keep all transmissions of data (including cultural) monitored and strictly controlled), and reduce/remove sources of data exchange that are not Chinese owned/controlled (meaning the government has complete control). TenCent has probably made increasing financial gains from all this. They have a virtual monopoly on social media in China. People I knew on Skype no longer use skype in favor of WeChat even though skype is not blocked there.
    • by boudie2 ( 1134233 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2017 @11:52AM (#55595659)
      Concerning the Chairman's direction, you left out letting Trump think that he's getting the better of him. Throw him a big dinner, he'll love it.
      • Sorry, you are correct. But I think it's generally accepted that Trump has a few loose screws, is highly susceptible to flattery (and pledges of allegiance to himself), and a number of people have literally said (remember once fellow on MSNBC) he has a few screws loose. Not that any of this is news. I remember when at the beginning of Trump's term he was putting on a "tough front" with Xi Jinping, and quickly did a 180 on that after a single phone call which the media said wasn't a strong indicator on Tru
        • We can only speculate, but it seems that every conflict is ultimately about money. It would surprise me that after two Bushes in the White House there's anything left to take. Every President since Lyndon Johnson has had a screw loose, what's new?
    • The direction of the current Chairman is clear: Keep data from leaving, keep all transmissions of data (including cultural) monitored and strictly controlled), and reduce/remove sources of data exchange that are not Chinese owned/controlled (meaning the government has complete control)

      with

      the most insecure means.

      He pretty much created the best place for hackers.

  • by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2017 @11:29AM (#55595441) Homepage
    Rather than risk a market of 1B people, these sheep corporations bow to any anti human rights local edict.
    They could have said, "no thank you, we support free speak, and oh, by they way, 1 million jobs from FoxConn get pulled starting Jan 1."
    But that takes standing up for principle and American values - screw that.
  • A first world corporation that isn't willing to enable the Chinese oligarchy's control.
  • by mspohr ( 589790 )

    I know it's a cliche but I've just been reading the book 1984 again and it's remarkable how prescient it is in anticipating many aspects of current society.
    " Ministry of Public Security" (China)
    "Minister of Security" (UK)
    "National Security Council" (UK and US)
    "Department of Homeland Security" (US)

    They are all here to protect us (from ourselves).

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      Department of Defense (War)
      Department of Justice (Law)

      To expound on that last one, we have courts of law and not courts of justice. Law and justice have nothing to do with each other.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I remember when the only computers on the net were in the USA.

    Then some appeared in Canada and Europe, and it was awesome. Yay U Toronto!!

    Then some appeared other places, and it was super cool that you could talk to people in a "permissionless" way, from anywhere. It was amazing and world expanding.

    Then it started to go downhill. People in the USA started to vote for ad companies to take over the internet. They wanted centralized control. Other countries without a tradition of free communication start

    • And if you think the Canadian government isn't complicit in all of this nefarious activity you just haven't been paying attention.
  • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2017 @12:05PM (#55595811)
    > "its removal from the app stores is the most recent example of a decades-long push by China's government to control and monitor the flow of information online"

    Maybe it's just that China wants to prevent their own citizens to be spied on by big western companies.
    • Re:Censorship? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2017 @04:40PM (#55598403) Journal
      China recalls that US software opens global networks to US "team sport" efforts... (12 July 2013)
      "encryption unlocked even before official launch"
      "... worked to enable Prism collection of video calls"
      " .. NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of .... video calls being collected through Prism"
      https://www.theguardian.com/wo... [theguardian.com]
      China is risking its networks by trusting US brands code that have to support US "lawful demands" to help "police"
      Who wants to risk junk US encryption products running on domestic networks?
  • hmmm. What other country and its three-letter agencies have been up to that, for even longer? Do you know? It's easy to write articles like this and point fingers at China, when you already control the major global app stores, and what software goes into people's phones. Hypocrisy.

  • Ever since MS took over, Skype has been going down faster and faster. However, since alternatives are plentiful, nothing of value has been lost.
  • ...it vanished from my computers as well. The laptop where I used Skype most runs 32 bit linux. Microsoft dropped 32 bit support for linux, so we all moved video conversations elsewhere.
  • Complain to the government!
    Oh, wait, this is China. They don't really have a process for handling complaints beyond the
    "Thank you for your message. We'll put you on a list. When our thugs have a bit of spare time, they'll look into your complaint and might beat you up to discourage you from logging more pointless complaints"..

  • What apps should be considered for alternative to Skype when visiting China? Most of my family and friends are on skype which is available on various devices & OS.

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