Image: HKmap

What you need to know

  • Apple has rejected a Hong Kong maps app for iOS
  • allows users to track police activity, in theory to help people avoid trouble.
  • It was rejected by Apple on the grounds it helps users evade law enforcement in the midst of Hong Kong protests.

Updated 10/4/19: Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reports that the map app has now been approved by Apple.

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. News via The Register and confirmed on the app's Twitter account claims that was rejected by Apple as per the following Tweet.

According to the report by The Register:

...the sole purpose of HKmap Live is to track police activity on the streets of Hong Kong and not to help people navigate to other locations. For example, at the time of writing – 0300 Hong Kong time – there are only a few messages live but they are clearly intended to provide ongoing intelligence on police movements.

"After the tear gas was applied, the police officer immediately returned to the police station," reads one. "Four flashing lights parked at the police station door," says another. Another simply reads: "Riot." It is extremely easy to see at a glance where police activity is concentrated given the combination of messages and precise GPS locations.

But local Hong Kong citizens have highlighted a quirk of local laws that provide a strong counter-argument: under the law, the Hong Kong police are obliged to wave a blue flag at the spot in which they which to declare that an illegal gathering is taking place.

Protestors have been on the streets of Hong Kong since March 31, following proposed amendments to the country's extradition laws that may have allowed for criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial. Hong Kong has been in state of unrest ever since, and the streets of Hong Kong remain an incredibly dangerous place. Reports earlier this week suggest that one demonstrator has been shot, and that tear gas and water cannons have been used to quell protestors, reportedly armed with petrol bombs as recently as Tuesday of this week.

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With regards to this new app, The Register further said:

The intent is to give citizens sufficient notice and time to move away from the area before any police action is taken. The HKmap Live app simply takes that official approach and extends it to citizens, allowing them to notify others of action that will be taken in specific locations.

It is far from clear whether Apple has undertaken that kind of legal review, or whether it is choosing to follow local law or US law in declaring the app illegal. Apple has also, so far, refused to say whether it took the decision to ban the app in response to a request from the Chinese authorities

The developer of the app took to Twitter in the last 24 hours to express hopefullness. Stating that it believed that the decision not to allow the app on the App Store was a bureaucratic mixup (not quite the word they used), rather than censorship. They further stated:

Everything can be used for illegal purpose on the wrong hand. Our App is for info, and we do not encourage illegal activity.

Most recent reports suggested that the review process for the app had been resumed following an appeal.

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