Leaked memo shows Tim Cook agrees with Apple's decision to remove Hong Kong mapping app

Tim Cook at the iPhone 11 Pro event
Tim Cook at the iPhone 11 Pro event (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • A leaked memo shows Tim Cook defending the removal of the HKmap.live app.
  • The app was removed from the Chinese App Store for promoting "illegal activity".
  • Cook believes that the decision "best protects our users".

Today, Tim Cook has addressed the controversy around the removal of the HKmap.live app from the Chinese App Store. Reported by Bloomberg, the CEO sent a memo to employees explaining their process and why they determined that the app need to be removed.

According to the memo, Cook defends Apple's decision and explains that it was not the functionality of the app itself, which allowed users to report information such as police checkpoints and protest hotspots, but what the app was being used for that led it its removal:

"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..."

The app has gone through a number of changing decisions from Apple. It had originally been taken down on October 3rd, then restored on October 4th, and then re-banned again this morning. With Tim Cook now weighing in and backing the ban, it seems that this decision from Apple is now final. Cook recognizes that the decision will draw criticism in the memo, writing:

"These decisions are never easy, and it is harder still to discuss these topics during moments of furious public debate...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."

Here's is the full draft of the memo:

"Team,You have likely seen the news that we made the decision to remove an app from the App Store entitled HKmap.live. 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.Tim"

Joe Wituschek
Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.

5 Comments
  • Ah, Tim - it is funny to watch you, and all the others lie. And bow to China.
  • He should have just been honest and conceded that he had no choice. It was a simple matter of defending his business, nothing more. He knows full well the crimes that the government of China commits. To suggest that complying with local laws is all that matters is ridiculous. The Nazis had local laws too. Would complying with those have been ok to keep building gadgets?
  • More doublespeak bullspit from Timmy. He talks tough about privacy & freedom but willingly gets on his knees & shuts up when his Chinese Masters frown. What a hypocritical coward
  • What about Waze? That app does the exact same thing he is describing.
  • Another day, another company bowing to the government of a country with literally one of the worst human rights records in the world... How is this news? EVERY day governments and businesses around the world bow to China's EVERY demand and / or they "turn a blind eye" to China's never-ending stream of human rights violations... Which is apparently a perfectly acceptable practice by said governments and businesses. But when Apple do the same thing, it's "news"? Such a decision by Apple is disappointing, but unless you're going to start calling-out everybody else for doing the same thing (ignoring China's human rights violations / bowing to China's unreasonable demands), it's hardly news without bias...