Tim Cook Defends Apple's Decision to Remove HKmap.live App 

This crowdsourced app used by Hong Kong protesters was removed by Apple—now Tim Cook is defending the decision.

Apple removed an app used by Hong Kong Protesters—now CEO Tim Cook is defending the company’s actions.

The App HKmap.live displays crowdsourced information about the concentration of police in certain areas. During Hong Kong’s ongoing pro-democracy protests and demonstrations, protesters have reportedly used the app to confrontations with police. Apple removed the app from its App Store on October 10, after rejecting and then reinstating it earlier this month.

“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,” Cook wrote today in a letter to all Apple employees. “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.”

HKmap.live tweeted that it disagreed with Cook’s letter, stating, “There is 0 evidence to support [Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau’s] accusation that HK map 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 app also says its moderators ban users who repeatedly attempt to post content that encourages criminal activity.

After Apple removed to app on October 10, it was criticized by U.S. lawmakers of both parties.

“An authoritarian regime is violently suppressing its own citizens who are fighting for democracy,” Oregon Senator Ron Wyden tweeted. “Apple just sided with them.”

“Apple assured me last week that their initial decision to ban this app was a mistake,” Missouri Senator Josh Hawley stated online. “Looks like the Chinese censors have had a word with them since. Who is really running Apple? Tim Cook or Beijing?”