Apple and Google have taken over a Navalny Voting App to See Russia
As the voting began on Friday for Russia’s lowest parliamentary house or State Duma, Google and Apple quietly pulled a chaotic anti-establishment voting app from their app stores. This is just the latest in a series of concessions Apple especially did the Kremlin—That whose demands seem to be more aggressive from here on out.
As the tech industry debates how to deal with many complex human rights and safety issues, the incident shows the uncomfortable compromise that many tech companies are on strike to operate in certain regions, as well growing useless requests of authoritarian governments.
The Russian government has forced Apple and Google to remove the voting app for several weeks, threatening fines and even accusing companies of being opposed to illegal voting. Made by fellow opposition activist Aleksei Navalny, it offers recommendations in each of Russia’s 225 voting districts for the candidates with the best shot to defeat the dominant United Russia party in every race. Voting is open until the end of the week, but the app is no longer available for download and misleading app imposters are already starting to replace him.
Representatives from the two tech companies met with Russian Federation Council officials on Thursday, according to the Associated Press, after the Council said in a statement that Apple would comply with the requested takedown. Someone with knowledge of Google’s decision to remove the app said Russian authorities have threatened certain Google employees with serious criminal charges and prosecution, forcing the company’s hand.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment from WIRED. Google declined to comment.
“Taking the Navalny app out of stores is a shameful act of political censorship,” tweet Ivan Zhdanov, an ally of Navalany, on Friday. Zhdanov too tweet an alleged screenshot of an email from Apple to the makers of the voting app describing Navalny’s opposition activity and its supporters as “extremists,” and claiming that the app “contains illegal content in Russia. “
Apple too reportedly disabled it is new The iCloud Private Relay feature Now in Russia, where the IP addresses of users and browsing activity are blocked to prevent mass surveillance. Now available in beta, Apple has never offered the service to countries like China, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and Belarus for “reasonable reasons,” but it was launched in Russia.
The action taken by Russia against the voting app is part of an even greater trend. In April, iPhones and other iOS devices sold in Russia began to come together further step in the setup process that prompts users to install a list of apps from Russian developers. The apps are not pre-installed and users can choose not to download them, but Apple has made the change as permitted by Russian law.
And Russia isn’t the only one making more restrictive demands. With it Good Firewall, the Chinese government has long made meaningful restrictions on how international tech companies operate in the country, including a requirement that all foreign services run on servers that are equally owned. belongs to cloud companies in China and is located in China. India is also particularly compelled international tech companies including Twitter and Facebook making compromises that damage privacy. But something very politically barren like getting an app voting guide is a daunting and dangerous new frontier.
The episode also began with a separate Apple controversy about a company’s plan to scan child sexual abuse material directly on users ’iPhones and iPads in addition to iCloud. Apple has it now the project was delayed after controversy among privacy and security advocates that such service could be abused by foreign governments that require Apple to access customer data. The company has firmly stated that it will not meet any of the requirements.