Apple withdraws police-tracking app used in Hong Kong protests

Chinese media had sharply criticised Apple for offering the app on its online store.

    Tech giant Apple has withdrawn an app that showed the location of police during anti-government protests in Hong Kong, drawing anger from supporters of the app's developer [File: Susana Vera/Reuters]
    Tech giant Apple has withdrawn an app that showed the location of police during anti-government protests in Hong Kong, drawing anger from supporters of the app's developer [File: Susana Vera/Reuters]

    Apple Inc has removed a controversial app used by protesters in Hong Kong to track police movements, but the move has resulted in anger on social media against the United States-based tech giant.

    Apple says the crowdsourcing app, HKmap.live, violated its rules because it was used by protesters to ambush police, and by criminals who used it to victimise residents in areas with no law enforcement.

    The company had rejected the app earlier this month but then reversed course last week, allowing it to appear on its App Store.

    The approval drew a sharply worded commentary on Wednesday in the Chinese Communist Party's official newspaper, the People's Daily, accusing Apple of being complicit with the protesters who have staged more than four months of anti-government demonstrations, some of which have been violent.

    Apple said in a statement that "many concerned customers in Hong Kong" contacted the company about the mapping app. Apple said it immediately began investigating the app's use and found it "has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong."

    "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," the statement said.

    The app's developer posted a message on Twitter saying that Apple had withdrawn it from its store and copied a part of Apple's notice. The tweet drew angry responses against the tech giant, including many who said: "Shame on @Apple".

    Under Apple's rules and policies, apps that meet its standards to appear in the App Store have sometimes been removed after their release if they were found to facilitate illegal activity or threaten public safety.

    In 2011, Apple modified its app store to remove apps that listed locations for drunk-driving checkpoints not previously published by law enforcement officials. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies