Apple Bans App that Helps Hong Kong Protesters Track Police Activity

An app created to help people avoid trouble in protest-hit Hong Kong has been rejected by Apple over concerns it could allow users to evade law enforcement.

According to a new report from The Register, the app in question — called HKmap Live — is a popular crowdsourced mapping app that shows users the locations of railway closures, areas where police are patrolling, locations where tear gas has been deployed, and other relevant geo-location data. Many users have credited the app with keeping residents safe and allowing users to comply with law enforcement’s requests to avoid areas that have been marked as “illegal assembly” zones.

However, on Tuesday, the owners of HKmap Live said that Apple had pulled it from the App Store and was given the following reason for its removal: “Your app contains content – or facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity – that is not legal … specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement.”

The report explains that the app contains multiple messages related to police intelligence. “Four flashing lights parked at the police station door,” reads one such message.

However, the app makers seem confident that Apple might reverse its ruling. “To make it clear, I still believe this is more a bureaucratic F-up than censorship,” one notes on Twitter. “Everything can be used for illegal purpose on the wrong hand. Our app is for info, and we do not encourage illegal activity.”

If there is any good news, it’s that the HKmap Live service is also available on the Web so it isn’t reliant on an iPhone app and Apple users in Hong Kong will still be able to access the service for as long as it stays live.

Although it’s not fully clear as to what exactly made Apple pull the app, it’s a known fact that the company has made compromises before to conduct its operations in countries known for their contentious human rights violations, including China and Russia.