Apple CEO Tim Cook on October 10 reportedly defended the decision to pull down an app used by protesters in Hong Kong to track police according to a leaked email to employees. After facing criticism from China, Apple removed HKmap.live app from the App store. Beijing has been upping its ante recently against foreign companies who are providing support to the Hong Kong protest movement. Meanwhile, critics have slammed Apple for its move.
As per a leaked email to Apple employees by Tim Cook, he said that the app allowed for crowd-sourced reports and mapping of police checkpoints, protest areas and other information which was in itself benign information. The email was leaked online at Pastebin. The email further said that over the period of some days, the company received credible information from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as Hong Kong users that app was being used in a criminal manner by targetting individual officers for violence and victimizing individuals and property where no police were patrolling, adding, that this usage has put the app in violation of the Hong Kong law. The email also said that widespread abuse clearly violated App Store guidelines.
The developers of HKmap.live have countered the removal in a series of tweets-
5. Most of the contents are user-generated, and we allow users to down vote for moderator review. Moderator will delete contents that "solicit, promote, or encourage criminal activity". Repeated attempt will be banned.— HKmap.live 全港抗爭即時地圖 (@hkmaplive) October 10, 2019
10. HKmap is used by passerby, protesters, journalist, tourist, and even pro-government supporters. It might be hard for people outside to imagine tear gases in your neighborhood, train station, or your go-to shopping mall, but ~5000 of them is fired since June.— HKmap.live 全港抗爭即時地圖 (@hkmaplive) October 10, 2019
Reports said that Chinese state media slammed the app by saying that it was helping rioters. Communist Party of China's mouthpiece said that by having the app on its platform, Apple was mixing business with politics and illegal acts. As of October 11, the app is no longer a part of Apple's Hong Kong App Store. Hong Kong has been on the boil with months of violent protests initially for now-scrapped extradition law but the protesters have now shifted focus to pro-democracy objectives.
(With inputs from agencies)