Apple Pulls Hong Kong Protest App From App Store Following Chinese Criticism [Updated]

Apple has pulled an app from the App Store that Hong Kong protestors have been using to track police movements, saying it violates the company's guidelines and local laws.

Apple approved HKmap Live last week after reviewing its decision to initially reject the app from the ‌App Store‌.


However, on Wednesday Apple was criticized by Chinese state media for its decision to make the app available. "Letting poisonous software have its way is a betrayal of the Chinese people's feelings," said the People's Daily.

The app has since been delisted from the ‌App Store‌ and Apple has issued the following statement:

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.

In a series of tweets, the developers of HKmap Live said they disagreed with Apple's claim that the app endangered law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong, and argued that "there is zero evidence to support CSTCB's [the Hong Kong Police Force’s Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau] accusation that HKmap 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."


Earlier on Thursday, Apple also removed the app of news outlet Quartz from China's ‌App Store‌. The news organization told The Verge that Apple has removed its mobile app after complaints from the Chinese government, and said it had received a notice from Apple that the app "includes content that is illegal in China."

Demonstrations in Hong Kong began in March in response to an unsigned legal bill that threatened to allow extradition to mainland China. Since then, the protests have to expanded to demand that the city state retains its broader democratic rights. The special administrative region maintains separate governing and economic systems from that of mainland China under the principle of "one country, two systems".

Update 12:30 p.m.: In an internal Apple memo, Tim Cook notes that the removal of HKmap Live was a difficult decision but argues that the app was being for illegal purposes and in violation of ‌App Store‌ rules.

It is no secret that technology can be used for good or ill. This case is no different. The app in question allowed for the crowdsourced reporting and mapping of police checkpoints, protest hotspots, and other information. On its own, this information is benign. However, over the past several days we received credible information, from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present. This use put the app in violation of Hong Kong law. Similarly, widespread abuse clearly violates our ‌App Store‌ guidelines barring personal harm.

Cook provided no details on specific incidents tied to HKmap Live.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
8 months ago
I think Apple should now remove Waze, since it also tracks police ambushes.

Ask Tim Cook what he thinks human rights are. He will show you a rainbow watch band.
Score: 127 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 months ago
Oh look. Good ole free speech Apple at it again. I guess they didn’t just stop with InfoWars like everyone said? Huh.
Score: 95 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 months ago
Tim Cook, you are a coward and a hypocrite. Period, end of story.


I think Apple should now remove Waze, since it also tracks police ambushes.

Ask Tim Cook what he thinks human rights are. He will show you a rainbow watch band.

I think the Board Of Directors should remove Tim Cook. Waze is just fine where it is. Then Apple should get serious about moving manufacturing outside of China. Samsung has already declared it is doing so.
Score: 83 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 months ago
All that is missing is a tweet from Apple CEO Xi Jinping?
Score: 77 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 months ago
Disgrace.

Hopefully everyone in HK downloaded it before it got deleted.
Score: 63 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 months ago
Free speech is dead
Score: 61 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Leaker: Apple to Stick With Lightning Over USB-C for 'iPhone 12' Before Going Port-Less Next Year

Tuesday May 26, 2020 2:31 am PDT by
Apple will use a Lightning port instead of USB-C in the upcoming "iPhone 12," but it will be the last major series of Apple's flagship phones to do so, with models set to combine wireless charging and a port-less Smart Connector system for data transfer and syncing in the iPhone "13 series" next year. The above claim comes from occasional Apple leaker and Twitter user "Fudge" (@choco_bit),...

Apple Releases macOS Catalina 10.15.5 With Battery Health Management Features, Fix for Finder Freezing

Tuesday May 26, 2020 1:59 pm PDT by
Apple today released macOS Catalina 10.15.5, the fifth update to the macOS Catalina operating system that was released in October 2019. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 comes two months after the launch of macOS Catalina 10.15.4, which introduced Screen Time Communication Limits. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 is a free update that can be downloaded from the Mac App Store using the Update feature in the...

Apple Reissuing Numerous iOS App Updates, Potentially Related to Recent 'This App is No Longer Shared' Bug

Sunday May 24, 2020 9:13 pm PDT by
Over the past few hours, a number of MacRumors readers have reported seeing dozens or even hundreds of pending app updates showing in the App Store on their iOS devices, including for many apps that were already recently updated by the users. In many cases, the dates listed on these new app updates extend back as far as ten days. Apple has not shared any information as to why updates for...

16-Inch MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and iMac Pro With Mini-LED Displays Again Rumored to Launch in 2021

Tuesday May 26, 2020 5:30 am PDT by
Apple plans to release several higher-end devices with Mini-LED displays in 2021, including a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the first quarter, a new 16-inch MacBook Pro in the second quarter, and a new 27-inch iMac in the second half of the year, according to Jeff Pu, an analyst at Chinese research firm GF Securities. This timeframe lines up with one shared by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who recently...

Jailbreak Tool 'unc0ver' 5.0 Released With iOS 13.5 Compatibility

Sunday May 24, 2020 3:06 pm PDT by
The team behind the "unc0ver" jailbreaking tool for iOS has released version 5.0.0 of its software that claims to have the ability to jailbreak "every signed iOS version on every device" using a zero-day kernel vulnerability by Pwn20wnd, a renowned iOS hacker. The announcement comes just days after it was announced that the tool would soon launch. The unc0ver website highlights how the tool...

Future AirPods to Include 'Ambient Light Sensors' Possibly Related to Rumored Health Features

Monday May 25, 2020 2:53 am PDT by
Apple is reportedly looking to integrate light sensors in a new model of AirPods in the next couple of years, according to a new report today, suggesting their use could be part of rumored upcoming health monitoring features in the true wireless earbuds. In a paywalled article, DigiTimes reports that ASE Technology could be involved in manufacturing the sensors: Apple is expected to...

First App Using Apple and Google's Exposure Notification API Launches in Switzerland

Tuesday May 26, 2020 3:02 pm PDT by
The first app that takes advantage of the Exposure Notification API developed by Apple and Google has launched in Switzerland, according to a report from the BBC. A team of app developers working on contact tracing app called SwissCovid have rolled out the app in a beta capacity for members of the Swiss army, hospital workers, and civil servants. After the app is tested and approved by MPs,...

'This App is No Longer Shared' iOS Bug Preventing Some Apps From Opening

Friday May 22, 2020 3:58 pm PDT by
An app bug is causing some iOS users to be unable to open their apps, with affected iPhone and iPad users seeing the message "This app is no longer shared with you" when attempting to access an app. There are multiple complaints about the issue on the MacRumors forums and on Twitter from users who are running into problems. A MacRumors reader describes the issue:Is anyone else experiencing...

HBO Max Now Available on Apple TV and iOS Devices

Wednesday May 27, 2020 2:42 am PDT by
HBO Max launched today, and is now available on Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad. WarnerMedia's new streaming service, which replaces HBO Now, combines HBO content with shows and films from Warner Bros and Turner TV. The service is available as a native app on the ‌Apple TV‌ HD and ‌Apple TV‌ 4K, but second and third-generation ‌Apple TV‌ owners will need to AirPlay HBO Max content...

Apple's Pro Display XDR Wins 'Displays of the Year' Award

Tuesday May 26, 2020 7:45 am PDT by
The Society for Information Display today announced its selections for the 26th Annual Display Industry Awards, and Apple has once again taken one of the top spots, this time with its Pro Display XDR that debuted last year alongside the revamped Mac Pro. The Pro Display XDR was one of three display products named "Displays of the Year," alongside Samsung's foldable display and BOE's...