HKmap.live is a crowdsourced web app that shows the location of Hong Kong protests and police activity. Apple has rejected the app version of it.
This is the feedback the developers got from Apple, which they shared in a tweet. “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 tweet goes on to object to the assumption that the app is used to break the law, but Apple seems to be saying that any app used to identify the location of coppers is intrinsically illegal.
“Your app contains content – or facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity – that is not legal … Specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement.”@Apple assume our user are lawbreakers and therefore evading law enforcement, which is clearly not the case.
— HKmap.live 全港抗爭即時地圖 (@hkmaplive) October 1, 2019
Initial reports on the matter implied Apple had banned a pre-existing app, but the developers subsequently tweeted to clarify that the app had been rejected during the review process and to say that its main frustration was the glacial progress of that process. It also noted that anything can be used for illegal purposes in the wrong hands and that the app is designed only to provide information. It has received some support for its position.
Apple rejects a map that only displays Hong Kong locations as illegal? Maybe this really is Apple sucking up to China rather than f bureaucratic screw-up? @HKmaplive only reports locations: road closures, tear gas, police presence. IT REPORTS LOCATIONS AND DOES NOTHING ELSE. https://t.co/xwt4OJ1jaV
— zeynep tufekci (@zeynep) October 2, 2019
This minor controversy puts Apple in a delicate position as it raises the question of whether its decision was influenced by pressure from China. The Hong Kong protests were prompted by apparent attempts by China to exert greater direct control over the semi-autonomous region and have become a significant embarrassment to the Chinese government. If it continues to the block the app, Apple will be under increasing pressure to demonstrate it’s not doing so for political reasons.