Apple pulled out a mapping app that tracked real-time movements of Hong Kong police vehicles, riot forces, and tear gas firing locations due to its alleged “violation of local laws and company guidelines.”
The app called HKmap.Live uses crowd sourced data through a Telegram bot, news reports, and Facebook. The site is still accessible on browsers.
The app was only available for less than a week after going live on the App Store on Oct 5.
The statement from Apple said that: “We have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app [HKmap.Live] has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimise residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement. This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store.”
The official Twitter account of Hkmap.Live said that the developers strongly disagree with the claims made by Apple and the Hong Kong police that the app endangers police officers and residents in the city.
The app developers said they never solicited, promoted, or encouraged any form of criminal activity using the technology.
— HKmap.live 全港抗爭即時地圖 (@hkmaplive) October 10, 2019
Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the decision to remove the app from the App Store.
In a letter to Apple employees, Cook wrote:
“It is no secret that technology can be used for good or for ill. This case is no different. The app in question allowed for the crowdsourced reporting and mapping of police checkpoints, protest hotspots and other information. On its own, this information is benign. However, over the past several days we received credible information, from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimise individuals and property where no police are present. This use put the app in violation of Hong Kong law.”
Charles Mok, a Hong Kong ICT legislator, responded to Apple’s decision and wrote back to Cook saying that the move can “cause problems for Hong Kong’s (sic) citizens trying to avoid police presence while they are under constant fear of police brutality.”
Today I wrote to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, to tell him his company’s decision to remove HKmap live app from Appstore will cause problems for normal Hong Kong’s citizens trying to avoid police presence while they are under constant fear ofpolice brutality. Values over profits, pls! pic.twitter.com/guaBfV8Pnf
— Charles Mok 莫乃光 (@charlesmok) October 10, 2019
Netizens wondered about what appears to be Apple’s double standards in removing apps and whether the tech giant was just another corporation being pressured into conforming by the Chinese government. Some cited how Waze, a widely available and popular driving app, offers the option to avoid and evade police speed checks which by Apple’s reasoning is a potentially incriminating activity./TISG