Apple Commits to App Store Transparency Improvements

Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation

Photo by Amir Hosseini, Unsplash

Fr. Séamus P. Finn, OMI, Director, OMIUSA JPIC

In 2022, the missionary Oblates and the OIP joined a coalition of investors to raise questions about apps. being removed from the Apple company platforms in China  at the request of the government. The coalition, that was led by Azzad Asset Management, reached an agreement with the company in January 2023 about their plan to improve their reports and transparency about government requests to remove certain applications.

The company has pledged to implement the actions in the agreement within the year. With democracy and freedom of speech under assault in numerous jurisdictions around the world, technology and communications companies have a special responsibility to protect human dignity by safeguarding the privacy, expression and conversation of individuals and communities from unauthorized government intervention.

Press Release from Open MIC

Shareholder coalition withdraws transparency proposal in light of Apple’s plans.

A coalition of investor advocates led by Azzad Asset Management withdrew a shareholder proposal this month after reaching an agreement with Apple Inc. regarding the company’s plan to improve its transparency reports and
specifically add clarity around the removal of applications from its app store in response to government requests.

The proposal raised concerns about freedom of speech concerning reports of apps being taken down in China, and requested that Apple expand its transparency reporting to provide clear explanations for app removals, and
the number of app removals by removal category.

Apple has pledged to address these concerns by significantly enhancing its current disclosures, including offering additional clarity regarding the number of apps removed or rejected as well as a breakdown by category explaining the reason for removal or rejection. Apple has committed to implementing these improvements within the year. In consideration of these planned enhancements, investors agreed to withdraw the proposal.

“We’re pleased to see Apple engaging on this issue,” said Michael Connor, Executive Director of Open MIC, which co-filed the proposal. “Transparency is vital for investors interested in protecting freedom of speech and ensuring that companies uphold their human rights commitments.”

“Azzad Asset Management appreciates Apple’s consultative approach to working with our stakeholder coalition,” said Joshua Brockwell, Investment Communications Director at Azzad. “Our agreed-upon outcome is a notable improvement over the company’s current reporting standards. We look forward to seeing this agreement on enhanced transparency become a reality in the coming months.”

The investor coalition includes lead filer Azzad and co-filers Open MIC, the Dominican Sisters of Springfield Illinois, Mercy Investment Services, Inc., the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Sum of Us, and Tulipshare Ltd.

The proposal was previously introduced in 2021, earning nearly 32 percent of shareholder votes.