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In Reversal, Apple Removes HK Map App After Chinese Criticism

Less than a week after approving a smartphone app that crowdsources the location of police and protesters in Hong Kong, Apple pulled it from its App Store after Chinese state media blasted the U.S. smartphone giant, saying the app was abetting violence by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrators.

Apple twice rejected the app, HKmap.live, for technical and legal reasons, before eventually approving it in early October. The developer of the app argued that other apps, including the navigation program Waze, advertise they can be used to avoid police traps but are allowed in Apple’s App Store.

In a message posted to a Telegram chat group operated by the developer of HKmap.live, Apple was quoted as saying it learned the app was being “used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong.” 

“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,” the message quoted Apple as saying. “This use of your app has resulted in serious harm to these citizens,” it added.

The developer, who remains anonymous, said on Twitter there was zero evidence to support Apple’s claims and that the app’s content is user generated, similar to content on apps like Facebook and Telegram. 

Apple’s removal of HKmap.live will likely halt further criticism from Chinese state media and Chinese users over the issue. Other foreign companies, such as the NBA and Activision Blizzard, haven’t been as lucky and continue to be dogged by controversy over their handling of issues related to the Hong Kong protests. 

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