The Slatest

Apple Pulls Map App Used by Hong Kong Protesters to Track Police After Pressure From Beijing

A photo illustration shows a smartphone displaying the "HKmap.live" app in Hong Kong on Oct. 10, 2019.
A photo illustration shows a smartphone displaying the “HKmap.live” app in Hong Kong on Thursday.
Philip Fong/Getty Images

Apple removed an app being used by protesters in Hong Kong to track police movements after the company faced criticism from Chinese state media for approving the software. The app HKmap.live crowdsources locations of both police and protesters, collecting them on a live map of Hong Kong, which was used by protesters to track police activities, like the use of water cannons and tear gas, as well as the location of safe zones in the city. The People’s Daily newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, saw things differently however, running a piece Wednesday stating the app was being used by protesters to track and ambush police.

The quasi-opinion piece published under the name of a pseudonym asked a number of leading questions like “Is Apple helping Hong Kong rioters engage in more violence?” You don’t need to connect too many dots to see the conclusion the piece is leading you to. “The developers of the map app had ill intentions by providing a ‘navigation service’ for the rioters. Apple’s approval for the app obviously helps rioters. What was its true intention?” the People’s Daily piece reads. “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.”

“Apple initially rejected the app for enabling users to evade police, the app’s Twitter account said last week,” the New York Times reports. “Several days later, the account tweeted that Apple had reversed course and approved the app. The app soon became the most downloaded travel app in Hong Kong—and criticism from mainland China began.”

The People’s Daily emphasizes that “[b]usiness is business, and politics is politics” and that “[n]obody wants to drag Apple into the lingering unrest in Hong Kong,” before throwing in a sizable “but.” “Apple has to think about the consequences of its unwise and reckless decision,” the piece warns. “ They also need to know that only the prosperity of China and China’s Hong Kong will bring them a broader and more sustainable market.”

Apple, which counts China as its third largest market after the U.S. and Europe where it registered $44 billion in yearly sales, got the drift and pulled the app just days after making it available. “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,” Apple said in a statement Wednesday. “This app violates our guidelines and local laws.”