Apple has removed a police-tracking app used by Hong Kong protesters after state-run Chinese media criticized the company for green-lighting the app.
The company removed the app hours after China’s official newspaper questioned Apple of whether it was acting as an “accomplice to the rioters.”
The app was similar to the US-based navigation app Waze which allows users to report police locations.
“The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau 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 a statement released Wednesday.
Hours before, on late Tuesday night, The People’s Daily blasted Apple for approving the app in the first place.
“The developers of the map app had not hidden their malicious motive in providing ‘navigation’ for the rioters,” the newspaper stated. “Apple chose to approve the app in the App Store in Hong Kong at this point. Does this mean Apple intended to be an accomplice to the rioters?”
Given the timeframe, it would appear that the Chinese government’s criticism was more influential in the app’s removal than the other factors Apple suggested.
The anonymous developer of the app responded to the criticism by stating the app fell squarely within the realm of free speech and public domain.
“Protest is part of our freedom of speech and I don’t think the application is illegal in Hong Kong,” the developer said, according to FT. “It merely consolidates information that is already available in public domain, e.g. Telegram groups.”
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