Friday, October 25, 2019

HKmap Live Removed From the App Store

CNBC (tweet, Hacker News):

Apple on Wednesday removed an app that protesters in Hong Kong have used to track police movements from its app store, saying it violated rules because it was used to ambush police.


Apple rejected the crowdsourcing app,, earlier this month but then reversed course last week.

Apple said in a statement that it had began 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.


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

John Gruber:

I still haven’t seen which local laws it violates, other than the unwritten law of pissing off Beijing.

Maciej Cegłowski:

A point that needs reiterating is that the @hkmaplive app doesn’t contravene any Hong Kong law that I am aware of. This app helps answer questions like “will I get shot with a bean bag round if I come out of this MTR station, because the police raised a colored flag I can’t see”

John Keefe:

Apple just took the Quartz app out of the Chinese app store at the request of China, and is now blocked from mainland China. Our excellent @qz coverage of ongoing Hong Kong protests may be the reason[…]

Noah Smith:

1984, meet 2019

François Chollet (Marco Arment):

“Courage” is just for removing headphone jacks

Francisco Tolmasky:

Apple (and every other App Store owner) invited this dilemma. They declared themselves the arbiter and took on this responsibility. They didn’t even allow a side load escape hatch. Now they have to themselves take an explicit stance, as opposed to being a neutral platform.

Daniel Jalkut:

Apple could have engineered their way out of this conundrum, the same way they engineered their way out of being liable for sharing private user data. Embracing some kind of user-facing side-loading solution would diminish the impact of Apple’s own authoritative power over users.

Murray Watson:

I have no confidence in Apple under Tim Cook. This, on top of removing the Network Extensions API that allowed Chinese people to sideload VPN applications, is a clear indication of a company under the thumb of an authoritarian regime.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan (via John Gruber):

Indeed the taking down of the app from the Apple store is the decision made by the operating company — Apple. So, if you want to know the reason for them to take down the app, maybe you can approach Apple and the Apple store.

Maciej Cegłowski:

Apple: we took down the @hkmaplive app at the request of the Hong Kong authorities

Hong Kong authorities: you’re going to have to ask Apple why they took the app down

Tim Cook (MacRumors):

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.

John Gruber (tweet, Hacker News):

I can’t recall an Apple memo or statement that crumbles so quickly under scrutiny. For a company that usually measures umpteen times before cutting anything, it’s both sad and startling.

Damien Petrilli:

No word why they removed the Quartz App?


Typical fallacy: you scope a little piece of the issue, dismiss it and act like you addressed the whole thing.

Daniel Vassallo:

By Tim Cook’s logic the Messages app should be removed too. I’m sure there’s plenty of evidence of illegal activity targeting individuals that happened (and continues to happen) on the Messages app.

Maciej Cegłowski:

As a user of the app, and an observer of the Hong Kong protests, I would like to address two serious allegations in this email that I believe are false.

The first allegation is that “the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence”. This makes no sense at all. The app does not show the locations of individual officers at all. It shows general concentrations of police units, with a significant lag.

As the developer and @charlesmok, a Hong Kong legislator, have pointed out, the app aggregates reports from Telegram, Facebook and other sources. It beggars belief that a campaign to target individual officers would use a world-readable crowdsourcing format like this.


The second, related allegation is that the app helps “victimize individuals and property where no police are present”. Again, does Mr. Cook have any evidence for this claim? The app does not show an absence of police, it shows concentrations of police, tear gas, riot flags etc.

Zeynep Tufekci:

The claims make no sense and have no evidence. Plus, police locations aren’t secret! It’s a small city. The key function of the app is to avoid the police/tear gas

HK map app can’t be used to “individually” target police because it doesn’t have any granular reporting and as anyone in Hong Kong can attest, the police travel in large groups. Repeat: the app has no granular function. More like police here, tear gas there, road block here.

Victimizing individuals when police aren’t present? It’s pretty clear if the police aren’t there if you’re already there. Anyone using this app (which has a lag) to do anything “fine-tuned” is an idiot and HK police will be faster. For a family trying to avoid tear gas? Useful.

Someone (Hong Kong authorities? It’s unclear because even they aren’t making these claims) is giving Apple wrong information, and rather than believing Hong Kong legislators, Apple is choosing to believe nonsensical claims. Seriously, the app is useless for the described goals.

Also, the protesters police has trouble with (so-called frontliners) don’t use this. They scatter [“be water”] as soon as police is spotted, the app lags any police attempt at ambush by a good deal. They see the police, yell and blow whistles. 30 seconds later, they’re gone.

Charles Mok (via John Gruber):

Today I wrote to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, to tell him his company’s decision to remove HKmap live app from Appstore will cause problems for normal Hong Kong’s citizens trying to avoid police presence while they are under constant fear of police brutality.

Dare Obasanjo:

Next time Apple tells us that “privacy is a human right” as justification for blocking cookies and other attacks on Google’s ads business, it’ll be good to remember how they acted when it was about actual human rights.

Juli Clover (Hacker News, Bloomberg):

U.S lawmakers on Friday sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook expressing concern over Apple’s decision to remove the HKMap Live app from the App Store after complaints from the Chinese Government.

The letter [PDF] calls Apple’s removal of the HKMap Live app "disappointing" and points out a prior quote from Tim Cook that reads “At Apple, we are not afraid to say that our values drive our curation decisions.”

John Gruber:

When China declares an app illegal in mainland China, Apple has no choice but to comply. The HKMaps decision was different — it was a political decision, not a legal one — and that difference is worth emphasizing. Apple could have chosen to fight for the HKMaps app.

Contrary take from Eric Jackson:

Love this first clip from @ReformedBroker & discussed it with him last week. Couldn’t agree more:

Tim Cook is way better for this moment in time than Steve Jobs.

Cook has unbelievable political instincts and ability.

Juli Clover:

Apple CEO Tim Cook is now the chairman of the advisory board of the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management (SEM), and he recently hosted the 20th annual meeting of the committee.

Ben Bajarin:

Been reading half a dozen Wall St. notes on Apple and most are overwhelmingly bullish on Apple’s business.

Many calling for the stock to get above $260 and this nugget as well in spite of the trade issues.

AAPL has outperformed the S&P500 by ~18% since last earnings call.

Nick Heer:

Meanwhile, remains available on Google Play stores in Hong Kong and China. Google did remove a game that allows you to role-play as a protester at the behest of the Chinese government.


Update (2019-11-01): See also: The Talk Show.

Update (2019-11-26): Nick Statt:

[Quartz] says it received a notice from Apple that the app “includes content that is illegal in China.”

John Gruber:

No one is alleging that anything Quartz has reported on the Hong Kong protests is false. It’s just unflattering to the Chinese regime.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

Tim Cook is a fraud. That is my opinion. However, I knew that from the get go. Like most of us, we talk a big game until their is money at stake, then we fold.

At this point, not allowing sideloading is actively evil.

Argh! There not their.

To reiterate, I am not accusing anyone else personally of "selling out", my statement is meant to be broad as in the sense of this phenomenon is not uncommon, but my words are targeted at Cook and Apple. Most big corporate talk is marketing spiel. Attack rivals in ways you can differentiate, the words themselves are incidental to the main purpose of sowing discord in the larger market. "These guys bad, we are good, buy more shiny luxury goods." Lather, rinse, repeat.

This guy leaves me heated. Seriously.

Yeah, Apple needs to allow side loading or shut up!

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