In what could possibly be in response to scathing criticism by a Chinese newspaper, Apple has removed an application from the app store that allowed protesters in Hong Kong to track police movements.
The company said that it was taking this action in view of reports of protesters using the app to ambush police. Of course, the fact that the app is getting removed right after the newspaper column is a mere co-incidence!
What makes the move rather ironic, is the fact that Apple had approved the app a week ago — after rejecting it earlier. The company said that it was removing the application after it had been contacted by customers in Hong Kong, and on further investigation discovered that the app had in fact put law enforcement officers in danger.
As per a statement by the company:
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.
Along with HKmap.live, the company also removed BackupHK, which is basically a mirror of the former.
Meanwhile, the company is not alone in the app-removing fiesta and is joined by Google, which recently removed a game that let you play as a protester in Hong Kong.
The reason put out by the company is that it doesn’t let people capitalize upon current, sensitive events. However, Google has not removed the HKmap.live tracking app, and you can still track the police using an android device.
Of course, various individuals and organizations have spoken out against what they see as Apple capitulating to pressure from the state:
Given the context of how (Apple) has over the years removed apps and removed access to news particularly inside mainland China that the Chinese government doesn’t want, I think that the removal of this particular app strikes me as another shameful incident in which a multinational company bends to Chinese government pressure.