Apple has removed a police-tracking app called HKmap.live from its app store, that protesters in Hong Kong were allegedly using to track the moments of police.
The crowdsourced mapping app was widely used by Hong Kong residents, as it marked the locations of police and informed citizens about street closures during the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
During the protests so far this year, the CEO of Telegram blamed China directly after its messaging app was taken down by a “powerful” DDoS attack. Other apps, such as Bridgefy, have flourished, as protesters take to using the Bluetooth-based messaging app to communicate with each other, to make it harder for Chinese authorities to intercept messaging during the ongoing street protests.
Into this heady mix of protests and technology, comes the Hkmap.live app. Apple had initially rejected HKmap.live from the App Store earlier this month, but then reversed its decision a few days later.
Now it has reversed its reversal, and chosen to pull the app altogether, saying it violated rules by endangering law enforcement and residents.
“We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place to discover apps,” Apple was quoted as saying by the Verge in a statement. “We have learned that an app, HKmap.live, has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong.”
“Many concerned customers in Hong Kong have contacted us about this app and we immediately began investigating it,” Apple reportedly added. “The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize 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.”
“There is 0 evidence to support CSTCB’s accusation,” the HKmap developers were quoted by the Verge as saying in response. “HKmap App never solicits, promotes, or encourages criminal activity. HKmap App consolidates information from user and public sources, e.g. live news stream, Facebook and Telegram.”
Apple decision comes one day after an English-language state media outlet, China Daily, blasted the iPad maker’s decision to allow HKmap.live onto the App Store, asking the question as to whether Apple was “helping rioters engage in more violence.”
“The developers of the map app had ill intentions by providing a ‘navigation service;’ for the rioters. Apple’s approval for the app obviously helps rioters. What was its true intention?,” the newspaper asked.
“Business is business, and politics is politics,” said the Chinese outlet. “Nobody wants to drag Apple into the lingering unrest in Hong Kong. But people have reason to assume that Apple is mixing business with politics, and even illegal acts. Apple has to think about the consequences of its unwise and reckless decision.”
“Providing a gateway for ‘toxic apps’ is hurting the feelings of the Chinese people, twisting the facts of Hong Kong affairs, and against the views and principles of the Chinese people,” the state outlet said.
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