It’s not every day a map app, of all things, is center of a political controversy, but that’s exactly what’s going on with China. HKMap.Live is no illustrated map app, but it did provide real-time data on the HKPF, which Chinese state media say was being used by protestors in the country. As a result, Apple Inc. removed the app from its App Store.
Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a defense on the matter, saying that the map app was being used for malicious purposes, enabling violence and the victimization of individuals and police, which would violate Hong Kong law, as well as Apple guidelines on the App Store.
But the CEO’s defense of the matter didn’t do much to assuage critics of the decision, who are saying that the app was primarily used by nonviolent HK citizens in order to keep track of, and avoid the most dangerous areas, with general opinion saying that the company caved to the Chinese government in removing the app.
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, a vocal support of curbing the power of tech companies and the industry at large, criticized Cook and the company on Twitter, wondering who’s really in control of Apple Inc; Cook or Beijing.
John Gruber, Daring Fireball writer and Apple fanbase icon, called the move surprising and depressing, adding that this is the fastest he’s seen Apple cave on a matter.
Under pressure from the Chinese government, Apple removed the app from its App Store early October, which resulted in Hong Kong customers calling foul, and boycotting the brand. This applied to customers that weren’t even taking part in the protest, calling the removal of the app an unacceptable move.
HKMap.Live is not illustrated map app, but Apple’s HK customers have been patronizing it, with a few defending that it helped keep them safe during these tumultuous times. Others are saying that, with the fact that the map exists is a sign of how people in Hong Kong see the current environment.
The app is no longer available for download on Apple’s App Store, but the app remains functional for people who’ve already got it downloaded on their devices.