Date
12 November 2019
Removing an app that Hong Kong protesters have used to track police movements, Apple said the app violated the firm's rules. Photo: Reuters
Removing an app that Hong Kong protesters have used to track police movements, Apple said the app violated the firm's rules. Photo: Reuters

Apple pulls HK police-tracking app after China criticism

Apple has removed from its app store an application, HKmap.live, which protesters in Hong Kong have used to track police movements, saying the app violated its rules.

The move came after the US tech giant came under fire from China over the app, which was perceived as helping the anti-government demonstrators in Hong Kong.

Apple had only just last week approved the HKmap.live app, which crowdsources the locations of both police and protesters, after rejecting it earlier this month.

The company said on Wednesday that it began an immediate investigation after “many concerned customers in Hong Kong” contacted the firm about the app, and that it found that the app had endangered law enforcement and residents, Reuters reports.

“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,” Apple was quoted as saying in a statement.

The iPhone maker also removed BackupHK, a separate app that served as mirror of the main HKlive.map app, according to the report. 

On Twitter an account believed to be owned by the HKlive.map app’s developer said it disagreed with Apple’s decision and that there was no evidence to support the Hong Kong police’s claims that the app had been used in ambushes.

The app consolidated content from public posts on social networks, it said, adding that moderators would delete content that solicited criminal activity and would ban repeated attempts to post such content in the app.

“The majority of user review(s) in App Store … suggest HKmap IMPROVED public safety, not the opposite,” it added.

In a separate move, Apple also removed the Quartz news app from its App Store in China because Chinese authorities said the app violated local laws, Reuters said.

Quartz CEO Zach Seward told technology publication The Verge in a statement: “We abhor this kind of government censorship of the internet, and have great coverage of how to get around such bans around the world.”

The HKlive.map app was removed from Apple’s app store globally but continued to work for users who had previously downloaded it in Hong Kong, Reuters found. A web version was also still viewable on iPhones.

On Tuesday, China’s People’s Daily lashed out at Apple over the HKmap.live app, saying the firm does not have a sense of right and wrong, and that it ignores the truth.

Making the app available on Apple’s Hong Kong App Store at this time amounts to “opening the door” to violent protesters in the Chinese special administrative region, the newspaper wrote.

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RC