Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a memo to employees, has defended Apple’s decision to remove the “HKmap Live” app from the App Store. The memo, obtained by Bloomberg, says the decision was based on “credible information” from both the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau and users in Hong Kong.
Cook continued in the memo, saying decisions of this type “are never easy,” especially “during moments of furious public debate.”
Demonstrations began in Hong Kong back in March in response to an unsigned legal bill that threatened to allow extradition to mainland China. The protests have expanded to demand that the city state retains its broader democratic rights. Protestors used the app to track the locations of protests as well as police activity.
Cook said the information provided by the app was being used to “maliciously” target officers and other folks not protected by the police:
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.
It remains to be seen if Cook’s explanation will satisfy the many parties’ currently upset with Apple’s decision to ban the app from the App Store.