Tuesday, 22 October, 2019

Tim Cook defends Apple's removal of Hong Kong map app

Facebook screengrab 林鄭月娥 Carrie Lam Facebook screengrab 林鄭月娥 Carrie Lam
Steven Clarke | 12 October, 2019, 20:59

Perhaps the strongest voice in opposition to Cook's reasoning comes from Hong Kong's IT Legislator, Charles Mok, who posted an open letter to Cook on Twitter on Thursday.

"It is no secret that technology can be used for good or for ill".

Long-time Apple commentator John Gruber wrote of Mr Cook's email: "I can't recall an Apple memo or statement that crumbles so quickly under scrutiny".

After censure from USA lawmakers and the press, Tim Cook defended the app's removal on Thursday in a memo sent to Apple employees.

Hundreds of mask-wearing pro-democracy protesters yesterday marched through Hong Kong's central business district at lunchtime, occupying a main thoroughfare and disrupting traffic as the territory braced for another weekend of turmoil.

The move came one day after Chinese state media berated the company for aiding Hong Kong protesters by approving the "toxic" app.

"National and global debates will outlive us all, and, while important they do not govern the facts", said Cook in defense of Apple's decision.

They tweeted: "We once believed the App rejection is simply a bureaucratic f up, but now it is clearly a political decision to suppress freedom and human right in #HongKong".

Just last week, Apple reversed an earlier decision to reject HKmap.live from its App Store - only to be harshly rebuked by the People's Daily, China's flagship state newspaper.

The app was only available for less than a week after going live on the App Store on Oct 5.

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"The app displays police locations and we have verified with [Hong Kong authorities] that the 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", Apple said in an emailed response to CNN Business.

"She seems to misunderstand how free speech operates, and also how freedom of the press operates", said Mr Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas and a vocal critic of China who was stopping in Hong Kong for two days as part of a regional tour. The app's developer did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.

The app that caused Apple such a headache was called HKmap.Live, which offered real-time updates of where Hong Kong police units were stationed.

We built the App Store to be a safe and trusted place for every user.

Most of the content on the app is user-generated, but allows users to downvote and enables moderators to crack down on content that "solicit, promote, or encourage criminal activity". Thursday's removal of the app drew immediate reprimands from Washington.

Hong Kong's metro has borne the brunt of protests, with stations torched and trashed, and only returned to normal operations on Friday after being completely shut down. Apple has in the past removed thousands of apps from the App Store to meet local regulations and please the Chinese government.

Quartz Chief Executive Zach Seward told technology publication The Verge in a statement: "We abhor this kind of government censorship of the internet, and have great coverage of how to get around such bans around the world". For some people in Hong Kong, the app was a handy tool that helped steer them away from possible baton charges, volleys of tear gas and police ID checks.

The Trump regime recently blacklisted 28 tech companies in China for their participation in the system of concentration camps that hold an estimated 1 million Uyghur people.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has allegedly scrapped a meeting with U.S. senator Ted Cruz, the highest-profile American politician to visit the city since anti-government protests broke out more than four months ago. According to the app's developers, pro-democracy protestors, journalists, and even Hong Kong government supporters have been using HKmap.live to navigate the city as large-scale political protests continue.

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