Apple Inc has removed an app that protesters in Hong Kong have used to track police movements, saying it violates its rules because it was used to ambush police, and by criminals who used it to victimise residents in areas with no law enforcement.
It rejected the crowdsourcing app, HKmap.live, earlier this month, but reversed course last week, allowing the app to appear on its App Store.
The approval drew a sharply worded commentary from the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, on Tuesday with Apple criticised for allowing a “poisonous” app.
Apple said in a statement on Wednesday that “many concerned customers in Hong Kong” contacted the company about the mapping app and it determined after an investigation 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 victimise residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” the statement said.
HKmap.live’s developer did not immediately have a comment on the removal, but later said it merely consolidated information that was available in the public domain, such as groups on Telegram.
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.