Apple has removed HKmap.live, a crowdsourced mapping app used by Hong Kong protesters, from the App Store. The app and accompanying web service has been used to mark the locations of police and inform about street closures during the ongoing pro-democracy protests that have engulfed Hong Kong this year.
Here’s Apple’s 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.
Yesterday, English-language state media outlet China Daily blasted Apple’s decision to allow HKmap.live onto the App Store. “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,” the op-ed argued.
App Store remove our App about half an hour ago, here is statement provided by Apple:
We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place to discover apps. We have learned that your app has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong.
— HKmap.live 全港抗爭即時地圖 (@hkmaplive) October 10, 2019
Apple’s enforcement of App Store policies is inconsistent at best, so it’s hard to take its statement at face value. The company hasn’t said which “local laws” HKmap.live may violate. It is worth pointing out, however, that apps like Waze — which similarly allow users to track the locations of police checkpoints — remain in the App Store elsewhere. Earlier today Apple also removed the app of news outlet Quartz, which has been providing strong coverage of the Hong Kong protests, from China’s App Store.
For now, HKmap.live’s web version is still accessible on the iPhone.