Where Is Apple VPN?

An open letter to Tim Cook

For the past few years now, like clockwork, I’ve sent the following letter to Tim Cook at Apple, Inc.

Dear Mr. Cook,

As you’re no doubt aware, ISPs can legally sell any information they want from our online activity and mobile app usage — financial information, medical information, our children’s information, social security numbers — even the contents of our emails.

They can even sell our geolocation data, tracking where we’ve been and when, and, by implication, who we’ve seen and what we’ve done.

It’s time for this to stop.

Apple has long stood for protecting personal privacy, and I’d now like to ask you to stand up and do it again.

ISP’s can track unencrypted personal information sent over HTTP, however they can’t track information sent using secure protocols like HTTPS.

That said, and despite our best efforts, not every website currently supports HTTPS, and ISP’s can still track connections to specific domains like plannedparenthood.org, webmd.com, off.org, political organizations, and other sites.

Does big business need to know if you’re pregnant? Depressed? Have cancer? A member of a specific religious or political organization? According to ISPs and Congress, all of that information may be deemed “useful” to corporations here in the US and around the world, and as such will be for sale to the highest bidder.

ISP’s, however, can’t track information sent through VPNs (Virtual Private Networks)… and that’s where I believe that Apple can step in.

Apple should use its networking skill and infrastructure to setup a global VPN network, available to all owners of Apple iPhones, iPads, and Macs. If such an operation doesn’t seem economically feasible, perhaps it could be added to the benefits given to those with paid iCloud accounts.

Regardless, an AppleVPN baked in to every device running iOS and OS X could help to ensure safe, private communications and help protect Apple’s customers against the erosion of personal privacy and, indeed, personal freedom. An erosion that seems to be a mainstay of modern business and even, sadly, of our own government.

An AppleVPN could protect our privacy and block spying by ISPs whose only goals seem to be financial. Protect us from ISPs intent on extracting and selling the personal information of those who’re forced by monopolization and lack of competition to pay for their unfortunately all too essential services.

Yes. There are VPN apps and companies out there. But they all suffer from a single, overriding issue: lack of trust.

How to I know that they aren’t doing the same exact thing?

I don’t know any of these companies. But I do know Apple.

There aren’t many major corporations willing to stand up to our government.

There are even fewer willing to take a stance that protects personal privacy and who work to preserve individual freedom and human rights.

But I do hope there’s at least one who will.

Thanks for your time,

Michael Long

Today, I found out that I was right.

And that there is a company willing to stand up for personal privacy.

It’s just not the one I expected.

You see, Google just announced that it’s bringing its own VPN to desktops and phones bundled with its premium $9.99 Google One subscription.

The VPN by Google One will roll out in the United States in the coming weeks through the Google One app (Android only) and will expand to more countries and to iOS, Windows and Mac in the coming months.

But you never know.

Maybe there’s at least two major corporations willing to stand up for personal privacy.

Apple?

Cover photo by Roman Bintang and provided by Unsplash.

Michael Long is a Senior Lead iOS engineer at CRi Solutions, a leader in cutting edge iOS, Android, and mobile corporate and financial applications.

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