Russia has joined China in essentially launching a censorship campaign that blocks its constituents from visiting websites the government doesn’t approve of. Yep, they blocked VPN’s. Human Rights groups are in a frenzy and Apple has already had to pull Virtual Private Network apps from the Chinese Apple Store. So, what does this mean for the future of the internet?
It’s pretty well known that China censors internet content within the country blocking everything from Twitter and Facebook to news sites. But Russia’s new legislation that blocks the use of Virtual Private Networks highlights the concerning direction the country is going in terms of hosting an open internet.
In 2012 Russia instituted their ‘Federal Blacklist’ that blocks sites that advocate drug use, suicide and child pornography. But, the law has also been used to blacklist websites and content that criticizes the government. By blocking VPN’s, Russians now have virtually no way to access these sites.
Jim Killock, executive director of the U.K. digital rights campaign Open Rights Group summed up the issue well to CNBC, “Laws that criminalize the use of privacy-enhancing technologies like VPNs are incredibly dangerous and will restrict rights to privacy, free expression and access to information.”
China approved similar legislation of their own earlier this year. But it wasn’t until this week that Apple had to remove many of the unapproved VPN apps from the Chinese Apple store, causing uproar across the tech and human rights community. Apple’s Tim Cook took harsh criticism, but the CEO explained many VPN’s are still available despite the crackdown. “We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries, we follow the law wherever we do business… even when we disagree.”
This kind of legislation goes beyond censorship, it also breaches the privacy of constituents. The law in Russia will allow the government to get ahold of users data and totally undermines the security of encrypted communication with a VPN. In China, the responsibility of upholding the VPN block is going to be up to the Internet Service Providers, and Russia will likely follow suit.
Then there is ethics of it, something Apple is clearly struggling with and could be problematic for other companies and organizations down the line. It’s also important to note that in China the use of VPN’s is still allowed, but only after obtaining the right permit. Whether that becomes increasingly difficult for foreign businesses and organizations working within China has yet to be seen.
If VPN access does become difficult or impossible, companies are bound to experience packet loss. But, there are ways around this. The connectivity experts at Custom Connect have already come up with bespoke solutions to help other customers avoid this. Interested in how we can help you navigate the quickly changing landscape in China? Get in touch.