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
21 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
21 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
21 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
21 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
21 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
21 months ago
Sure Tim, sure...
Score: 50 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

General Music and AirPod 3 Feature

Rumor: Apple to Announce Third-Generation AirPods and HiFi Apple Music Tier on May 18

Thursday May 13, 2021 10:32 pm PDT by
A new rumor suggests that Apple will announce the third-generation AirPods and the recently rumored HiFi, or high-fidelity Apple Music tier, on Tuesday, May 18, via a press release on its website. The new rumor comes from Apple YouTuber Luke Miani who shared the alleged exclusive news with the AppleTrack website. According to the YouTuber, Apple plans to release the next-generation AirPods...
apple park drone june 2018 2

Apple Fires Newly Hired Ex-Facebook Product Manager Following Revelations of Past Misogynistic Comments

Thursday May 13, 2021 12:10 am PDT by
Apple has fired Antonio García Martínez, an ex-Facebook product manager and author of the controversial book "Chaos Monkeys," following public and internal calls for removal and investigation due to past misogynistic statements, The Verge reports. Apple hired Martínez earlier this week to join its ads team, however, comments that Martínez made in the past sparked condemnation from users...
imac m1 blue isolated 16x9 500k

M1 iMac is Up to 56% Faster Than Prior-Generation High-End 21.5-Inch iMac

Wednesday May 12, 2021 10:03 am PDT by
Apple's M1 iMacs are set to start delivering to customers next week, and ahead of the official launch day, benchmarks for the machines have been showing up on Geekbench, likely from reviewers who are testing them. It will come as no surprise that M1 iMac benchmarks are right on par with benchmarks for the M1 MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini, coming in with an average single-core score...
2021 mbp hdmi slot 3d

2021 MacBook Pro Leaks Confirm Returning MagSafe and Ports

Friday May 14, 2021 3:06 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming MacBook Pro models are expected to feature a number of major changes such as larger display options and powerful new Apple silicon chips. Among the more surprising updates to this year's MacBook Pro models is the return of three ports that have been missing from the machines for over five years. Expected to come in 14- and 16-inch sizes, the 2021 MacBook Pro models are...
fortnite apple logo 2

Judge in Epic vs. Apple Case Floats Potential Compromise

Wednesday May 12, 2021 3:54 pm PDT by
In the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Epic Games, the two companies are this week calling up their expert witnesses to argue their points before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who will make a decision in the case after a three week trial. Expert testimony is not as exciting as some of the leaked App Store documents that were highlighted last week, especially as much of what's being...
google photos

PSA: Google Photos Unlimited Storage Ends Next Month, Here's How to Export Your Pictures to iCloud

Thursday May 13, 2021 5:26 am PDT by
For as long as it's existed, Google Photos has offered free unlimited storage for uploading images at a reduced yet good enough quality for most users. From June 1, 2021, however, all photos and videos uploaded to Google accounts will count against users' cloud storage. If you've been relying on Google to back up your media library, it may be time to move that content elsewhere. This article...
AirTag in Envelope Feature 2

AirTag Used to Successfully Track a Mailed Package Across the UK

Wednesday May 12, 2021 8:44 am PDT by
An Apple customer in the United Kingdom has successfully used Apple's Find My network to track an AirTag as it was being sent by mail to a friend in a completely different city. Outlined in a blog post at Intego, Kirk McElhearn said he taped an AirTag to a piece of card, wrapped it inside a small bubble envelope, and then sent it on its way. Kirk lives in the small town of...
m1 ipad pro chip

M1 iPad Pro Over 50% Faster Than Previous Generation in Early Benchmarks

Tuesday May 11, 2021 11:56 am PDT by
Last month, Apple introduced a new iPad Pro with the same M1 chip found in the latest Macs, and early benchmark results indicate that the M1 iPad Pro is over 50% faster than the previous-generation iPad Pro. Based on five legitimate Geekbench 5 results (here's the fifth) for the fifth-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro with the M1 chip, the device has average single-core and multi-core scores of...
prosser macbook air colors stacked

Images Reveal Colorful New MacBook Air Design

Tuesday May 11, 2021 5:06 am PDT by
Apple's next MacBook Air will feature a completely new design and come in a range of colors like the 24-inch iMac, according to leaker Jon Prosser, who has now released supposedly accurate renders of the new machines based on leaked images. In a new video uploaded to YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Prosser elaborated on his previous prediction that Apple's next-generation MacBook Air models ...
iPhone 13 Camera Backs

iPhone 13 Models Will Be Slightly Thicker and Will Have Larger Camera Bumps

Monday May 10, 2021 10:41 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 models will be slightly thicker than the iPhone 12 models and will also feature larger, thicker camera bumps with lenses that protrude less, according to iPhone 13 schematics seen by MacRumors. The new iPhone 13 and 13 Pro models are expected to feature a thickness of 7.57mm, up from 7.4mm in the iPhone 12 models. That's an increase of 0.17mm, which won't be hugely ...