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Apple switches iTunes to HTTPS to bypass Chinese censors

According to The Next Web, Apple has started using HTTPS for searches and downloads on iTunes in China as a way to avoid the country’s censors. The Chinese government has increased its monitoring of online app stores and heightened its crackdown on VPNs. A search for “VPN” or other related keywords on iTunes would trigger a connection reset, according to Greatfire.org, a Chinese site designed to test blocked URLs and websites. Going to the iTunes pages for certain apps related to creating or using VPNs would also force a reset. However, Greatfire.org said that Apple had successfully evaded those censorship attempts with the change to HTTPS. 

Why does it work? HTTPS is a more secure version of the usual HTTP protocol used to access webpages. It has some added elements of the SSL/TLS protocol that offers encryption for private information and communications. Basically it locks out any outside attempts to find out what is transpiring between a webpage and someone surfing the Web. 

Last week, China’s leaders said they would begin regulating online application markets so that those retailers would need to obtain a license prior to selling online. The restrictions could also extend into real name registration and potentially into rules for the apps and programs themselves, according to state-run publication Global Times.

China’s rationale for the censorship is that the nation is to avoid malware and keep its Internet development healthy. That’s a reason that VPNs are subject to more scrutiny since they’re the most common source of accessing banned content for Chinese citizens. And while there have been problems with questionable apps and app sellers in China, there are understandable concerns that the Internet regulation is just a first step toward more serious inroads for controlling personal expression.

Image via Bala Sivakumar