Tim Cook Defends Removal of Hong Kong Mapping App From App Store in Leaked Memo

timcookApple CEO Tim Cook has written to employees defending the company's controversial decision to pull an app used by Hong Kong protestors to coordinate gatherings and avoid large concentrations of police.

Apple removed HKMap Live from the App Store on Thursday following the app's approval last week, which itself only came after an internal review of the company's original decision to reject it. Apple's reversal came after the Chinese Communist Party's flagship newspaper criticized Apple for letting the app into its store.

In a company-wide memo, a verified copy of which has been reproduced on Pastebin, Cook told staff that the decision to remove the app was not easy, but that Apple had received "credible information" from Hong Kong police that the app was being used to target individuals for violence. Here's the memo in full:

Team,

You have likely seen the news that we made the decision to remove an app from the ‌App Store‌ entitled HKmap.live. These decisions are never easy, and it is harder still to discuss these topics during moments of furious public debate. It’s out of my great respect for the work you do every day that I want to share the way we went about making this decision.

It is no secret that technology can be used for good or for 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.

We built the ‌App Store‌ to be a safe and trusted place for every user. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously, and it’s one that we aim to preserve. National and international debates will outlive us all, and, while important, they do not govern the facts. In this case, we thoroughly reviewed them, and we believe this decision best protects our users.

Tim

Cook has since been criticized for his claim that the app is used to target individual police and members of the public. The developers say HKmap Live is designed to help protestors avoid law enforcement. As such, it doesn't show individual officers but only large concentrations of police, as reflected in the web-hosted version of the app.

In a Twitter post, Charles Mok, a developer and member of Hong Kong's legislative council, revealed that he had written to Cook saying he was "deeply disappointed with Apple's decision to ban the app, and would like to contest the claims made by Hong Kong Police Force's Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau (CSTBC)."

"There are numerous cases of innocent passers-by in the neighborhood injured by the Kong Kong Police Force's excessive force in crowd dispersal operations," he wrote.

"The user-generated information shared using HKmap.live in fact helps citizens avoid areas where pedestrians not involved in any criminal activities might be subjected to police brutality which many human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have observed."

Mok's letter went on to note that since the banned app aggregates real-time reports from Telegram, Facebook and other sources, then the same standard should also be applied to review these social media apps.

In the U.S., lawmakers have also criticized Apple for not standing up for democratic values and free speech. "An authoritarian regime is violently suppressing its own citizens who are fighting for democracy," said Democrat senator Ron Wyden in a tweet. "Apple just sided with them."

"Apple assured me last week that their initial decision to ban this app was a mistake," tweeted Republican senator Josh Hawley. "Looks like the Chinese censors have had a word with them since. Who is really running Apple? ‌Tim Cook‌ or Beijing?"

At a press conference on Thursday, Hong Kong's Secretary for Transport and Housing was asked by reporters which local laws HKmap Live had violated that led Apple to remove it from the ‌App Store‌, but the official deferred to Cupertino: "The taking down of the app from the ‌App Store‌ is the decision made by the operating company – Apple. So, if you want to know the reason for them to take down the app, maybe you can approach Apple and the Apple Store."

Apple has so far declined to comment on the matter.

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

Pepe4life Avatar
18 months ago
Tim Cook’s behaviour is a typical example of the far left’s hypocrisy and double standard when it comes to their so-called “social justice”
Score: 88 Votes (Like | Disagree)
UK-MacAddict Avatar
18 months ago
Apple should go ahead and remove WhatsApp, Facebook and all other social media then. All these apps have at some point been used to co-ordinate protests etc. WhatsApp was being use during the London riots to plan attacks.

The app cannot zone in on a specific individual police officer. The app was used to avoid police not confront them. Police shot an unarmed protester point blank in the chest recently.
Score: 66 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Count Blah Avatar
18 months ago

Lose lose situation for Apple. Whiners will whine.
And protesters will get bloodied.

But who cares about a fight for freedom when there is $$$ on the line, amirite?
Score: 62 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ryuok Avatar
18 months ago
Of course Tim, trust the paramilitary police from a militant ethno-nationalism totalitarian regime. Do you know the Hong Kong Police - under Beijing's order - wear face masks and show no identification of whichever sort. Hong Kong is clearly facing a humanitarian crisis, as verified by many international human rights observers and legislators from the West who visited the protest sites. Well done Apple and Tim Cook for siding with a brutal regime for profit.
Score: 61 Votes (Like | Disagree)
manni Avatar
18 months ago
When push came to shove, Cook sided with tyrants against protestors.

I encourage everyone to read about the ethnic cleansing of the Uighurs - thousands being held in “re-education camps”, their places of worship destroyed, their culture targeted. This is roughly equivalent to a company siding with the German government in 1938. And, yes, other companies do it but Cook has repeatedly claimed that Apple would be based on principles and that he was a great advocate of freedom and would use his position to push political ideas. It was bad enough to build things in China for a company with lofty ideals but to take orders from tyrants in this way is unforgivable.

His price was high. His pay last year was $136 million (while he tweets about “equality”). Who among us would speak out when our mouths are stuffed with so much gold? Maybe none. But Cook has taken orders from a tyranny to help them suppress pro-democracy protestors. The day before his decision the Chinese state media demanded it. The tyrants said “jump” and Cook asked “how high?” Whatever the justification he has forfeited forever his right to virtue signal on politics, he is just a greedy accountant (like, I concede, virtually all businessmen).
Score: 59 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Keniutek Avatar
18 months ago
Sure Tim, sure...
Score: 50 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

microsoft edge ios android

Bill Gates Says His Preference for Android Over iPhone is Due to Pre-Installed Software

Friday February 26, 2021 3:35 am PST by
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates this week participated in his first meeting on Clubhouse, the increasingly popular invite-only conversation app, where he fielded a range of questions as part of an ongoing book tour. Gates was interviewed by journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, and given that the Clubhouse app is currently only available on iOS, naturally one of the questions that came up was...
Top Stories 47 Feature copy

Top Stories: MacBook Pro, iMac, and AirPods Rumors, macOS 11.2.2, MagSafe Wallet Revisited

Saturday February 27, 2021 6:00 am PST by
March is right around the corner, and that means our first good opportunity for Apple product launches in 2021 as the company frequently has significant launches in March or April each year. We're hearing rumors about MacBook Pro, iMac, AirPods, and more, although many of these will be coming out at different times over the course of the year. This week also saw a macOS update to address a ...
iphone 6 in hand

Apple Faces Another iPhone Lawsuit Over 'Programmed Obsolescence'

Monday March 1, 2021 6:44 am PST by
Apple faces a new class-action lawsuit that accuses it of deliberately releasing iOS updates that slowly reduce the performance of an iPhone, forcing customers to upgrade their devices. The lawsuit comes from the Portuguese Consumer Protection Agency, Deco Proteste (via Marketeer), which in a statement says that it will proceed with a case against the Cupertino tech giant because it...
maxresdefault

HomeKit Essentials Worth Checking Out

Saturday February 27, 2021 7:05 am PST by
HomeKit was slow to take off after its 2014 launch, but now that it's been around for seven years, there are hundreds of HomeKit products available, ranging from doorbells and speakers to TVs, lights, and cameras. In our latest YouTube video, we rounded up some of our favorite HomeKit products that we find most useful. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. HomePod...
First Look Big Sur Feature2

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 to Prevent MacBooks From Being Damaged by Third-Party Non-Compliant Docks

Thursday February 25, 2021 10:07 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.2.2, the fourth update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November. macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 comes two weeks after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.2.1, a bug fix update. The new ‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌ 11.2.2‌ update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences....
iphone 12 pro display video

iPhone 13 to Include 1TB Storage Option and LiDAR Across the Board, Says Wedbush Analyst

Monday March 1, 2021 4:00 am PST by
Apple's forthcoming iPhone 13 could include a 1TB storage option for some models and LiDAR Scanners across the entire lineup, according to a report from Wedbush analysts. In a new note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said that initial Asian supply chain checks gave the firm "increased confidence" that Apple's 5G-driven product cycle would extend well into 2022,...
flat mbp 14 inch feature yellow

Redesigned 14-Inch MacBook Pro Expected to Feature Brighter Mini-LED Display With Slimmer Bezels and More

Thursday February 25, 2021 7:48 am PST by
Apple plans to unveil new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED-backlit displays in the second half of this year, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report claims that Radiant Opto-Electronics will be the exclusive supplier of the Mini-LED backlight units, while Quanta Computer is said to be tasked with final assembly of the...
mac mini developer transition kit photo feature

Apple Requiring Developers to Return DTK Mac Minis by March 31

Friday February 26, 2021 3:57 pm PST by
Apple today sent out emails to developers who are in possession of a Developer Transition Kit, asking them to return the machines by March 31. The Developer Transition Kits are Mac minis with A12Z chips that Apple provided for development purposes ahead of the release of the M1 Macs. Apple in the emails provided developers with shipping instructions, and plans to begin collecting the DTKs...
iphone 12 120hz thumbnail feature

Kuo: iPhone 13 Lineup to Feature Smaller Notch and Larger Batteries, 120Hz Display for Pro Models, and More

Monday March 1, 2021 7:50 am PST by
iPhone 13 models will all feature a smaller notch, while the two Pro models will be equipped with low-power LTPO display technology for a 120Hz refresh rate, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Several other sources have previously claimed that some iPhone 13 models will support a 120Hz refresh rate, including display industry analyst Ross Young, leakers ...
unc0ver version 6 release

Jailbreak Tool 'unc0ver' 6.0.0 Released With iOS 14.3 Compatibility

Sunday February 28, 2021 9:26 am PST by
The team behind the "unc0ver" jailbreaking tool for iOS has released version 6.0.0 of its software, which can allegedly be used to jailbreak any device running iOS 11.0 through iOS 14.3 using a kernel vulnerability. The unc0ver website describes how the tool has been extensively tested across a range of iOS devices running various software versions, including an iPhone 12 Pro Max running iOS ...