Apple removes app that located Hong Kong police

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Apple has removed the app, which allows people in Hong Kong to trace the police. According to Apple, iPhone owners used the app to ambush police officers. The developers claim that there is no evidence for this.

The reason for the removal is that Apple claims that users have used the app “in a way that endangers police and citizens in Hong Kong”, according to a statement to Axios, among others. Apple investigated the app together with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, part of the Hong Kong police.

Apple initially rejected, but approved it for publication in the App Store last week. Now the app has been removed again and according to the developers, that’s wrong. They say there is no evidence for the allegation.

All information about the location of the police comes from sources that users provide themselves. Apple claims that user content “provokes, promotes or encourages criminal activity.” According to the developers, that guideline is vague: “We are sure that there is enough content going around on Facebook, Instagram, Safari, Telegram, Twitter, Waze, Whatsapp that incites, promotes or encourages crime.” All the apps mentioned are in the App Store, except Safari; that is Apple’s own browser and is not in the download store.

The app’s withdrawal comes a day after Chinese media outlets such as China Daily attacked Apple for allowing the app. Apple is one of the few western tech giants with significant interests in China, selling many devices and earning part of its revenue in the country. China Daily appealed directly to that. “They should also know that only the prosperity of China and Hong Kong will give them a broader and more sustainable market.”

Earlier this week, Blizzard fired a Hearthstone player and took his prize money for expressing support for the protests. Hong Kong has been protesting against China’s political influence for months.

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