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[liberationtech] Is it legal to deny access to users based on their residence?

Martin Johnson greatfire at
Thu Feb 13 12:03:21 PST 2014

Background: Apple deleted several apps (OpenDoor, FreeWeibo etc) from the
China App Store last year, claiming that they broke Chinese laws. The
censorship is not based on the actual location of the user, but on the
address which the user used to register the account.

Question: Let's say that a US citizen lives and works in China. He or she
registers an iPhone with his/her Chinese address. He/she then goes back to
the US on vacation. Now, while in the US, this person would still be denied
access to certain apps in the App Store - supposedly because they break
Chinese law. But in this case you would have a US citizen being in the US
but being restricted by Chinese law - is that possible?

I know that in the above case the person could get around the restrictions
by registering a new account, with a US address. But it's perfectly
possible that the person doesn't have a valid US address to register,
especially if it has to be connected to a credit card.

Let's compare to an offline business, say a restaurant. It's reasonable for
a restaurant to deny customers who actually reside in a different area -
"we don't deliver there". But if a customer walks in, could they ask for
his/her address, and reject him/her if he/she doesn't have a local address?

All advice appreciated.

Martin Johnson
Founder of and | PGP
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