Apple says people have used HKmap.live to ambush police and threaten public safety.
- Apple is under fire for removing an app that the Chinese government says tracks police movement and aids the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
- App developers—who have chosen to remain anonymous for safety reasons—say their app, HKmap.live, has improved safety in Hong Kong.
- The app is still available on Google Play.
After swift criticism from the Chinese state, Apple has removed a controversial app from its store, saying it endangers Hong Kong police and residents.
HKmap.live works by crowdsourcing social media reports to pinpoint where in Hong Kong protests are occurring, where police are located, and additional information, such as whether or not police are using weapons like tear gas or live ammunition.
While Apple initially rejected the app because it encouraged illegal activity and helped users “evade law enforcement,” per NPR, the app eventually went live on the App Store and was available for download until it was removed last night, according to the New York Times.
The app’s disappearance follows a story published yesterday in the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s communist party, that implied Apple’s intention was to aid the protesters, questioning if the tech giant was acting as “an accomplice to the rioters.”
Apple says it “verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau (CSTCB) 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.” Thus, the company deemed HKmap.live to be in violation of “guidelines and local laws.”
Several of the app’s users have also been defending the app on Twitter, with some claiming the app increases citizen safety in Hong Kong by showing where the areas of conflict are located.
As of publication, you can still download HKmap.live on Google Play. But even if the app vanishes entirely, the Hong Kong protesters have already proven to use plenty of other ingenious hacks to fight back.