Tim Cook Explains Why Apple Removed the Controversial Hong Kong Protest App

Apple has received quite a bit of flak on social media for giving in to the demand of the Chinese government and removing the HKmap.live app from the App Store. The app was being used by protestors in Hong Kong to keep track of police presence and locations where protests were taking place. Now, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has sent an internal memo to employees clarifying as to why the app was removed from the App Store.

Cook says in the memo that the app was being used “maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present.” He says that the company received credible information after which it took the decision of removing the app from the App Store. However, he has not provided any details whatsoever about the information that Apple had received.

Below is Tim Cook’s memo in full:

Team,

You have likely seen the news that we made the decision to remove an app from the App Store entitled HKmap.live. These decisions are never easy, and it is harder still to discuss these topics during moments of furious public debate. It’s out of my great respect for the work you do every day that I want to share the way we went about making this decision.

It is no secret that technology can be used for good or for ill. This case is no different. The app in question allowed for the crowdsourced reporting and mapping of police checkpoints, protest hotspots, and other information. On its own, this information is benign. However, over the past several days we received credible information, from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present. This use put the app in violation of Hong Kong law. Similarly, widespread abuse clearly violates our App Store guidelines barring personal harm.

We built the App Store to be a safe and trusted place for every user. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously, and it’s one that we aim to preserve. National and international debates will outlive us all, and, while important, they do not govern the facts. In this case, we thoroughly reviewed them, and we believe this decision best protects our users.

Tim

Given the lack of details, I find it a bit too difficult to believe Tim’s words here. Apple has in the past removed thousands of apps from the App Store to meet local regulations and please the Chinese government. So, it won’t be surprising if the company is doing something similar here as well.

[Via Daring Fireball]