Tim Cook explains why Apple pulled controversial Hong Kong app

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Tim Cook defends Apple's decision to pull HKmap.live from App Store.
Photo: Apple

As Apple draws fire for banning a mapping app that proved useful to Hong Kong protesters, CEO Tim Cook defended the company’s decision. In an email to employees, Cook explained why Apple pulled HKmap.live from the App Store.

Cook said Apple received “credible information” from Hong Kong’s tech crime and cybersecurity unit that the app “was being used to maliciously 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.”

Protests rocked Hong Kong after its government introduced a bill to speed up extraditions of criminal suspects to China. Hong Kong, which operates semi-autonomously from China, temporarily pulled the bill. However, demonstrators vowed to continue fighting until the bill is completely pulled from consideration.

Apple defends pulling Hong Kong mapping app

Cook’s email did not give specific examples of how the app was used to harm individuals. The developers of HKmap.live, which first published Cook’s email, say they do not promote or solicit criminal activity. The app pulls in information from other users, lives news streams and social media feeds.

The app will continue to work for users who already had it on their devices.

Apple also yanked the Quartz news app from the App Store in China at the request of Chinese authorities. The news site publishes a page dedicated to the Hong Kong protests.

News of Apple’s concessions to government pressure drew ire from U.S. lawmakers. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted, “Who is really running Apple? Tim Cook or Beijing?”

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said: “Apple is yet another capitalist who’ll sell rope to communists to hang us.”