Apple removes HKmap.live app used in Hong Kong protests after pressure from China

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Apple has removed HKmap.live, a crowdsourced mapping app widely used by Hong Kong residents, from the App Store. This app and its associated web services have been used to signify the locations of police and inform about street closures during the ongoing pro-democracy protests that have engulfed Hong Kong this year.

Earlier this month, Apple removed this app from App Store, but after a short while, they reversed thier decision. But now, the company is reversing its reversal.

Here’s what Apple said:

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.

Yesterday, English-language state media outlet China Daily showed its frustration over 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’s enforcement of App Store policies is inconsistent at best, so it’s hard to make its statement at face value. The company hasn’t specified which “local laws” HKmap.live may violate. For now, HKmap.live’s a web version is still accessible on the iPhone.

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