Apple pulls police tracking app used by Hong Kong protesters

SAN FRANCISCO/HONG KONG: Apple Inc has removed an app that helped Hong Kong protesters track police movements, saying it was used to ambush law enforcement – a move that follows sharp criticism of the US tech giant by a Chinese state newspaper for allowing the software.
The decision to bar the HKmap. live app, which crowd sources the locations of both police and protesters, from its app store plunges Apple into the increasingly fraught political tension between China and the protesters that has also ensnared other US and Hong Kong businesses.
Apple had only just last week approved the app after rejecting it earlier this month. The Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper on Tuesday called the app “poisonous” and decried what it said was Apple’s complicity in helping the Hong Kong protesters.
Apple said in a statement on Wednesday it had begun an immediate investigation after “many concerned customers in Hong Kong” contacted the company about the app and Apple found it had endangered law enforcement and residents.
“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 victimise residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” it said.
Apple did not comment beyond its statement. The company also removed BackupHK, a separate app that served as a mirror of the HKmap.live app.
On Twitter, an account believed to be owned by the HKmap.live app’s developer said it disagreed with Apple’s decision and there was no evidence to support the Hong Kong police’s claims via Apple that the app had been used in ambushes.
“The majority of user review(s) in App Store … suggest HKmap IMPROVED public safety, not the opposite,” it said. — Reuters