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Apple, Google Remove App That Let Hong Kong Protesters Track Police After Backlash From China

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  • Apple and Google both removed an app called HKmap.live that allowed people in Hong Kong to track police activity, the Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Apple initially held off on approving the app but decided to list it on its App Store, but eventually made it available for users to download on Oct. 5, the South China Morning Post reported.
  • Google said the app goes against its policy stating app developers cannot capitalize “on sensitive events,” while Apple said the app “has been used to target and ambush police” and “threaten public safety.”

Apple and Google removed an app Wednesday from their respective digital stores that allowed people in Hong Kong to track police activity, The Wall Street Journal reported

The removal came after China condemned the app’s purpose for facilitating “illegal behavior” in a Wednesday blog post published by the Chinese Communist Party-run newspaper The People’s Daily.

Apple said in a statement that it pulled the app because it “violates our guidelines and local laws,” citing safety concerns for citizens and law enforcement, according to Axios.

“We have learned that an app, HKmap.live, has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong. Many concerned customers in Hong Kong have contacted us about this app and we immediately began investigating it,” Apple said.

“The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau [CSTCB] 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 initially said it was going to block the app but instead made it available for users to download on Oct. 5, the South China Morning Post reported.

The anonymous developer of HKmap.live responded to Apple’s decision in a series of Wednesday tweets. (RELATED: Hong Kong Police Unload Live Rounds On Protesters, Shoot 18-Year-Old: Report)

We disagree [with Apple’s] and [the Hong Kong Police Force]’s claim that HKmap App endanger[s] law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong,” the developer tweeted.

“There is [zero] evidence to support CSTCB’s accusation that HKmap 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,” the developer continued.

“The majority of user review[s] in [the] App Store that suggested HKmap IMPROVED public safety, not the opposite. We once believed the App rejection is simply a bureaucratic f[**k] up, but now it is clearly a political decision to suppress freedom and human right in #HongKong,” the developer concluded.

Google, which also removed the app, said its company policy prevents developers from “capitalizing on sensitive events such as attempting to make money from serious ongoing conflicts or tragedies through a game,” a Google spokesman told WSJ.

China is Apple’s second-largest market next to the U.S., and the company has given leverage to China to make demands of Apple that are compliant with the country’s government like limiting internet freedom. Apple has also come under scrutiny for violating the human rights of its factory workers, as the Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported.

“I’ve never found being on the sideline a successful place to be,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees at a meeting in 2016. “The way that you influence these issues is to be in the arena. So whether it’s in this country, or the European Union, or in China or South America, we engage.”

“And we engage when we agree, and we engage when we disagree. I think it’s very important to do that because you don’t change things by just yelling. You change things by showing everyone why your way is the best.”

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