Russia and China have cracked down on virtual private network applications for smartphones. No VPN’s for you! says the Privacy Nazi. Long a bastion of privacy and security Apple has responded like a lamb and acquiesced to Chinese government demands that unapproved VPN apps be removed from the App Store.
Governments are at war; with each other, with criminals, with terrorists, and with their own citizens.
The Idler, circa 1758:
Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.
Put another way by Arthur Ponsonby in 1928:
When war is declared, truth is the first casualty
By bending over to Chinese authorities, Apple may have exercised proper pragmatism to maintain its manufacturing and large customer base in China proper, but the company has begun the fall from privacy grace; perhaps the last major technology company willing to provide customers with true privacy and security.
The future is coming and it’s likely that only criminals, hackers, terrorists, and governments themselves will maintain privacy and security.
To be fair, Apple hasn’t exactly rolled over and played dead. Authorities have asked the company to build custom software to crack encryption on various terrorist’s and criminal’s iPhones and the company refused.
Precedent. Any back door access to one iPhone means someone could gain access to all iPhones, and governments don’t have a good track record maintaining their own information.
In this struggle VPNs– virtual private networks– are not much different than encryption used to protect information and access.
A virtual private network extends a private network across a public network, and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. (“In the simplest terms, it creates a secure, encrypted connection, which can be thought of as a tunnel, between your computer and a server operated by the VPN service.”) Applications running across the VPN may therefore benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network.
That broad definition makes it easy to see why such nations as Russia and China want to prohibit unauthorized VPN so they can more easily control what their citizens read and view. This isn’t a communist vs. free world issue. Communism is dead. Russia has become a dictatorship and China no longer adheres to communist principles thanks to capitalism and a single ruling party (other parties are allowed but have no power).
Such tactics date back to at least Aeschylus and hundreds of years before the birth of Christ:
In war, truth is the first casualty.
Amen. Where we once could trust Apple to remain a bastion of personal privacy and security, we now have doubts. For now, end-to-end encrypted communication remains on iPhones and other devices, but the handwriting is on the wall. Such personal freedoms and security are on the wane and under attack, even in the U.S.
For somehow this is tyranny’s disease, to trust no friends.
If we cannot trust Apple, who can we trust?