Apple has been making headlines recently as its action of the addition of the HKmap.live app was heavily criticized by the China Daily, a newspaper owned by the Communist Party of China. In an internal email, email sent to Apple employees only, Tim Cook defended this action of Apple. He said that the app, though quite useful, had the potential to be used in a way that could threaten public safety.

Here’s how the email from Apple’s CEO went like, “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.

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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.

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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 protect our users.”

Though for obvious reasons, the particulars about the location where it was used to target individual Police official has not been revealed. The problem is quite alarming, as people would use the map app to detect the areas with lower police surveillance and spring up there.

Harsh Vardhan

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