Apple drops police-tracking app on China criticism
Apple has removed a police-tracking app for Hong Kong from its store after a Chinese state media accused it of inciting illegal behavior.
AP’s Joe McDonald had the news:
Apple removed a smartphone app that allows Hong Kong activists to report police movements from its online store Thursday after an official Chinese newspaper accused the company of facilitating illegal behavior.
Apple Inc. became the latest company to come under pressure to take Beijing’s side against anti-government protesters when the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily said Wednesday the HKmap.live app “facilitates illegal behavior.” The newspaper asked, “Is Apple guiding Hong Kong thugs?”
The Hong Kong demonstrations began over a proposed extradition law and expanded to include other grievances and demands for greater democracy.
Apple said in a statement HKmap.live was removed because it “has been used to target and ambush police” and “threaten public safety.” It said that violated local law and Apple guidelines.
HKmap.live allows users to report police locations, use of tear gas and other details that are added to a regularly updated map. Another version is available for smartphones that use the Android operating system.
Sam Byford quoted an Apple statement for The Verge:
We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place to discover apps. 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. 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 said 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.”
Yesterday, English-language state media outlet China Daily blasted Apple’s decision to allow HKmap.live onto the App Store. “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 op-ed argued.
Apple itself had rejected the app, Mary Hui wrote for Quartz:
Apple had earlier this month rejected the app, which was already available on Google Play, saying it “facilities, enables, and encourages” illegal activity by allowing users to “evade law enforcement.” After reviewing the app further, it then approved it late last week. The app became available for download on Saturday and quickly topped the travel category in the Hong Kong app store. Now, just several days later, it has decided to remove the app after all in the wake of the warning from Chinese state media.
In a statement posted its Twitter page, the administrator of HKMap.Live, who is in his 20s and works in the finance industry, said that there is “0 evidence” showing that the app had been used to target and ambush police officers. It emphasized that the app aggregates from public sources like news outlets’ live streams, and also vets entries from users, adding: “The majority of user review in App Store that suggest HKmap IMPROVED public safety, not the opposite.”