Apple might bail on Russia over authoritarian app demands

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Putin adds power to your iPhone case.
Putin signed a law that Apple reportedly thinks will let the Russian government use iPhones and Macs to spy on Russian citizens.
Photo: Caviar

Russian President Vladimir Putin approved legislation that requires all phones and computers come bundled with third-party software localized for Russia. This is giving Apple such privacy concerns it might withdraw from the country.

The law is supposedly intended to save people the hassle of downloading Russian apps when they buy new computers, phones, tablets, and/or smart TVs.

But companies, including Apple, have expressed fears that the additional software approved by the Kremlin will be used to spy on Russian citizens.

When the legislation was still being debated, Apple obliquely threatened to pull out of the country, according to the International Business Times. An Apple rep told the Duma that it may cause the company to “revise its business model in Russia,” reports The Bell Explains.

This hasn’t escaped local attention. This legislation has been called the “law against Apple” in the press.

Apple and Russia: Two very different takes on privacy

The iPhone maker takes a strong stance on privacy. It’s said many times that it views privacy as a “fundamental human right.”

And it doesn’t preinstall third-party software on any of its computers.

Russia, on the other hand, has reduced some of the privacy rights of its citizens. It forces tech companies like Apple to store data on servers based in Russia, and decrypt data on Russian customers at the government’s request.

The law requiring government-approved software on every computer sold in Russia goes into effect July 1, 2020. Apple has until then to decide if it really will pull out of the country.