Oct 10, 2019

Apple takes down app used to track Hong Kong police

A protester throws a tear gas canister fired by Hong Kong police, Oct. 1. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images

Confronted with evidence of danger to police and citizens, Apple removed an app Wednesday night that "has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong," an Apple statement said.

  • Why it matters: With pro-democracy riots in their 18th week, the app — HKmap.live — has allowed users to track police movements, then target and ambush officers. Apple determined that those uses violate both App Store policy and Hong Kong law.
  • Hong Kong authorities, who had complained about the app, said it also was being used to victimize residents in areas where police weren’t present.

Context: Earlier in the day, the Communist Party's main newspaper, the People's Daily, had criticized Apple, saying the app "facilitates illegal behavior."

  • "Is Apple guiding Hong Kong thugs?" the commentary asked, per AP.
  • The South China Morning Post, the main English-language paper in Hong Kong, reported that the app "uses crowdsourcing to track police vehicles, armed officers and incidents in which people have been injured."
  • Apps removed from the App Store continue to work, but new users can't add the app.

Apple's full 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.

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