Early this week, Apple’s iOS store pulled the Hong Kong protesters safety app. The safety app is called HKmap Live.
The safety app was being used by the Hong Kong protesters to garner valuable information. These pieces of information include where protests are taking place and what kind of police activity is taking place.
The makers of HKmap Live state that the intent was always to inform citizens of any police activity. This will allow them to move out of the area before any police action is done.
Hong Kong police shooting tear gas at protesters
Apple has stated that these pieces of information cannot be shared and are deemed illegal.
Upon interviewing the tech giant, they said that this app is enabling an illegal activity. This illegal activity is the avoidance of law enforcement.
However, the makers of the app have a counter argument. They say that the app only makes the locations known. They also indicate that many other apps are currently doing that. This means that apps like Waze should also be banned.
The strength of their argument remains to be seen though. Prior to being pulled off the market, messages were being sent in the app that clearly indicated where the police presence was the heaviest.
These updates clearly read like updates to police activity. One said that after the police shot tear gas, they returned to their headquarters.
These messages, combined with the GPS locations, can allow people to see where police presence is strongest. It also allows them to see what the best routes to take are.
It is currently unclear what law Apple is following for their banning of the app. Did they use local US law? Or the local laws of China? It also has not been clear whether or not Chinese authorities have requested this of Apple.
Apple’s move is an interesting one. For one, Apple has always prided and marketed itself as one that champions citizens’ rights. This is made evident by the fact that they have denied any requests from local governments.
However, at the time of writing, Apple has already lifted its ban and has reinstated this app in the store.
HKMap Live: Why?
The HKMap Live app was created due to the protests currently happening in Hong Kong. These protests have been going on for months, and started due to the now defunct extradition bill. Despite Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s lifting of the extradition bill, the protests continue to rage on. It seemed that they have more demands and the call to address all of them is louder.
People thought that the lifting of the extradition bill would quell most of the protests happening. However, the opposite has proved true. The protests are raging more than ever these days prompting the police to strengthen their presence and actions.
The Hong Kong police are currently resorting to more violent means to stop the protests. They started using tear gas on protesters. One student was shot point blank by the Hong Kong police. In an effort to save the protesters and continue to fight for the cause, the elderly resorted to creating chains that would stave off the police while the protesters escaped.
At the same time, the HKMap Live app was also created to help protesters escape these violent consequences.