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Tim Cook defends choice to pull Hong Kong police monitoring app from App Store

A memo has surfaced, showing that Tim Cook supports Apple's choice to remove the controversial police monitoring app, HKMap Live, from the App Store.

The once-banned-then-reinstated app, HKMap Live, has been once again pulled from the App Store. Now, Tim Cook has gone on record in a memo saying that he defends the choice to finally remove it from the App Store once and for all.

HKmap Live was an app intended to track police activity on the streets of Hong Kong. The developer's stated objective was to allow users to avoid areas where protesters and police conflicts could potentially take place.

However, the argument was made that the app could be used for evading the police. According to a copy of the memo received by Bloomberg HKMap Live has been used "maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present."

The developers of HKMap Live have gone on record saying that they do not agree with Apple's decision.

Apple has been criticized for the move, being added to the list of companies under scrutiny as the Hong Kong protests intensify. Activision Blizzard Inc. has also recently been put under fire after banning a pro gamer from a Hearthstone tournament after he had shown support for Hong Kong protests in a post-game interview.

HKMap Live is not the only app to be removed from the Chinese App Store in recent times, either. Quartz, a news app that featured extensive coverage of the Hong Kong protests, had been removed from the Chinese App Store earlier this week.

Below is the full memo that Tim Cook provided via email to Apple employees.


You have likely seen the news that we made the decision to remove an app from the App Store entitled These decisions are never easy, and it is harder still to discuss these topics during moments of furious public debate. It's out of my great respect for the work you do every day that I want to share the way we went about making this decision.

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.

We built the App Store to be a safe and trusted place for every user. It's a responsibility that we take very seriously, and it's one that we aim to preserve. National and international debates will outlive us all, and, while important, they do not govern the facts. In this case, we thoroughly reviewed them, and we believe this decision best protects our users.