China orders Apple-backed ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing booted from App Store


tim cook in a car
Tim Cook catches a cab with Didi Chuxing's Chuxing's Jean Liu.
Photo: Tim Cook/Twitter

The app for Didi Chuxing, the popular Chinese ride-hailing service, has been removed from the App Store in China, citing privacy concerns.

This is no usual case of Apple booting an app from the App Store for failing to measure up to its standards, though. In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook sits on Didi’s board of directors, and Apple previously invested $1 billion in the Chinese Uber rival. Instead, the ban was ordered by China’s Cyberspace Administration of China regulators — citing “serious violations [regarding] collection and usage of personal information.”

The cyberspace regulator announced the ban Sunday. Didi Chuxing just floated its shares on the stock market. The IPO is the largest debut on the US stock market after Alibaba. The regulator has released no additional information about the alleged data-gathering violations. Bloomberg reports that the ruling:

“effectively requires the largest app stores in China, operated by the likes of Apple Inc. and smartphone makers Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp., to strike Didi from their offerings. But the current half-billion or so users can continue to order up rides and other services so long as they downloaded the app before Sunday’s order.”

This is part of a broader curb on the power of big tech giants in China by the government. The companies, as with tech giants in the United States, hoover up massive amounts of user information. The order on Didi asks that it  “rectify its problems following legal requirements and national standards, and take steps to protect the personal information of its users.”

Didi has already halted new user registrations in China. It is now working to bring its app in line with regulatory requirements.

Apple and Didi Chuxing

Back in 2016, Tim Cook made some comments on Didi Chuxing at the time of the Apple investment.  “We are making the investment for a number of strategic reasons, including a chance to learn more about certain segments of the China market,” Cook told Reuters. “Of course, we believe it will deliver a strong return for our invested capital over time as well.”

Cook has often talked about China being Apple’s future biggest market. But Apple has experienced its own share of challenges there as well. Among other challenges, this has included having to purge thousands of apps from the App Store. It just so happens that, in this latest case, Didi Chuxing is a company Apple has personally invested in. That likely makes the ordered removal hurt even more.

Source: Bloomberg


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