Apple again pulls Hong Kong police activity tracking app from App Store following Chinese warning

Stephen Nellis and John Ruwitch for Reuters:

Apple Inc has removed an app [HKmap.live] that helped Hong Kong protesters track police movements, saying it was used to ambush law enforcement – a move that follows sharp criticism of the U.S. tech giant by a Chinese state newspaper for allowing the software.

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 victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” it said.

MacDailyNews Take: The developers of HKmap.live unsurprisingly disagree with Apple and the Hong Kong police:

Regardless, Hongkongers, the HKmap 即時地圖 app is not a requirement for accessing the HKmap Live service as it remains available online here: https://hkmap.live

As Nellis and Ruwitch note (at the very bottom of their article, of course) that “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 drunken driving checkpoints not previously published by law enforcement officials.”

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.

17 Comments

  1. Apple responded differently to an overreaching government when the Obama administration demanded Apple give it a backdoor key to iPhone software so it could access a suspects phone. Apple told the US government, rightly, to stuff it. Apple in the current China story buckles to a communist tyranny that is in the process of ending freedom in Hong Kong. Apple should be ashamed.

    1. They didn’t just tell them to stuff it. They fought them in the legal system. That is not a reasonable possibility in an authoritarian state with no separation of powers. Again, it is easy to support free speech when you aren’t the one facing a jail sentence. I suppose to be consistent, Kent, that you would support an app that assisted Antifa in evading the American police.

    2. All Apple is looking at is the money that can be made in Communist China selling there iPhones . I say Apple should tell China to go straight to Hell….. Just IMO…….

  2. The nature of being a multinational corporation is that you are forced to comply with the local laws in each jurisdiction where you do business. If you don’t, the people who go to jail (or worse) aren’t your executives back in California, but the local employees.

    1. I believe Apple fully supports sanctuary city declarations in the US, which are US cities declaring they won’t comply with federal law. So Apple does not even support law enforcement in its own country.

      1. Actually sanctuary laws only are in regards to using local resources to enforce federal laws and actions. In effect federalizing local law enforcement without paying for it.

        What? dead justice scalia said there was no Constitutional basis to demand local resources be used to enforce federal laws.

        What?

        1. Cities in the US do not get to pick and choose which federal laws are valid and which are not. That is done by elected officials. Sanctuary laws are nullifications of real law. If they are allowed, then I recommend nullifications of the federal abortion laws which permit murdering babies and nullification of federal environmental laws and tax laws, which I don’t like. I guess we can all just pick and choose in your world. I choose to become a sanctuary from all laws passed by mostly Democrats.

          1. Bad analogies. The federal government does not require state law enforcement officials to act as its agents in enforcing the abortion, environmental, or federal tax laws. Yahooville is free to announce that its police won’t assist the EPA or IRS in conducting searches or detaining suspects in the absence of a warrant or other judicial order. Why should the immigration laws be a special case where a city or county jail keeper is expected to imprison someone based on the warrantless demand of a federal agent? America is not an authoritarian state… yet.

          2. Nobody is picking and choosing laws. The supreme court agrees that local law enforcement assets cannot be required to be made available to enforce federal laws.
            Please try to understand simple english.

            But wait. There is more but it is complicated english so I am sure this will go over your head too.

            Sanctuary cities: what is a sanctuary city?
            Sanctuary cities come into play when an undocumented immigrant comes into contact with the police. A very common occurrence of this happens on the road – someone is speeding, has a broken taillight, or has a broken license plate light, and is pulled over. If a person is undocumented, chances are they do not have a valid driver’s license – only twelve states and the District of Columbia allow immigrants to legally drive. Immigrants still have to get to work and school somehow – but being found without a valid driver’s license can get an individual arrested.

            Other reasons immigrants (just like native-born Americans) come into contact with the police include an immigrant calling the police to their house (for example in the case of a domestic dispute), a car accident, drug usage, police checkpoints, so forth.

            Once an immigrant is arrested, their information gets put into a federal database that is shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE can then issue a hold, also called a detainer, asking the police to hold that person in custody until ICE can come pick that person up for immigration detention and eventual deportation.

            Here’s where we get to important legal point #1: being undocumented is not a crime. It’s a civil violation. Undocumented immigrants have rights under the U.S. Constitution. And according to due process, the police cannot detain anyone who hasn’t at least been suspected of a crime. If a police officer encounters someone walking down the street who turns out to be undocumented, they cannot arrest that person because that person has not committed a crime (ICE, however, can). Similarly, if the police arrest someone undocumented – for example, someone suspected of committing a crime, who is then cleared, they must let that person go.

            Important legal point #2: holding an immigrant past the point when they should be released, just so that ICE can pick them up, is unconstitutional. Multiple courts have said so, and immigrants can sue the police for unlawful holding.

            Here we get back to the point of sanctuary cities: in a sanctuary city, the police will release an arrested immigrant after he’s been cleared of charges, posted bail, or completed jail time for whatever he was arrested for. A non-sanctuary city will hold that person until ICE can come pick them up – even though that extra holding is not constitutional.

            Keep in mind that all of the above only applies if the undocumented person has not committed any serious crimes. If they have, the police can keep them in jail by filing charges. Or ICE can present the police with a warrant or other order from a judge, which will result in a hold until ICE can come by.

  3. the comparison to Antifa, however slimy they may be, having a means to evade police does not remotely equate to what’s happening in Hong Kong. Apple should have told China to stuff it. The police in Hong Kong if someone tells them to, will start killing people with impunity.

    There are no rights in China, none, they design everything there to keep you under a perpetual thumb If Apple had any brains at this point, then would find every means possible to move everything they do there out of that country.. end of story

  4. 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.

  5. Can you imagine what its like living in a communist country like China? Six conglomerates owning 90% of the news media. All those crooked politicians & cops. Selective law enforcement for the rich or connected in contrast to everyone else. A corporation is a person. Asset forfeiture laws which allows your property to be taken, without any charges being filed. No knock warrants based on lies. A legal system where you are innocent until proven broke $$$……… Its scary!!!

    1. Not to mention a Dear Leader-type figure who can’t take any criticism and blows up at the slightest provocation… must be terrible for those living in such a country!

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