back to article Here's that hippie, pro-privacy, pro-freedom Apple y'all so love: Hong Kong protest safety app banned from iOS store

Apple has banned an app that allows people in Hong Kong to keep track of protests and police activity in the city state, claiming such information is illegal. “Your app contains content - or facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity - that is not legal ... specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement," …

  1. karlkarl Silver badge

    Sounds like a flipping web page would have been good for this. Throw in some AJAX if really necessary.

    Apps are never the answer when a piece of software actually matters.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      web page is secure

      strangely the web page has :

      DNSSEC - enabled to stop state actors interfering

      IPv6 - to enable mobile devices to connect directly rather than through CGNAT that is 464XLAT

      CSP - to declare what they use...

      WHY can't all website owners do the same ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: web page is secure

        Unfortunately it appears the website has already been compromised...

        by Google's "Tag Manager"

        (Anon Joke Icon placeholder)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: the web page

        I wonder if they could turn this into a sort of real-time psuedo-journalism thing and increase the international profile of the situation. Multilanguage notifications, time stamped pictures, etc...

    2. Nick Kew

      Google Maps can get you traffic information. Not so hard in principle to add other things that might cause a user to avoid somewhere or choose a different route. My guess would be, this app might have included features specifically for rioters themselves, as opposed to just for innocent folks looking to avoid trouble. In other words, it packed a riot-organising tool.

      Given that governments around the world claim the authority to turn off/block social media at times of crisis (and India has gone much further than that in Kashmir without even the provocation of HK riots), it says something about the liberal tolerance of HK that they still have access to 'normal' social media.

      1. BigSLitleP

        Yeah, everyone knows the liberal thing to do is fire tear gas at protesters and shoot them at point blank range with live ammo.......

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    Apple will make more money ...

    by keeping the Beijing government happy than it will keeping several thousand protestors happy.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Apple will make more money ...

      "specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement"

      And Apple have LOTS of experience of that, especially when it comes to paying corporation tax.

    2. Blackjack Silver badge

      Apple will lose money anyway

      If Samsung had to stop making and selling phones in China, what makes you think Apple won't be outright banned?

      More so considering Apple is an American company.

      1. macjules Silver badge

        Re: Apple will lose money anyway

        Do Apple make anything in China? I thought that Foxcon, Pegatron and lots of other Taiwanese/Chinese manufacturers make things on behalf of Apple? All Apple do is stick a label on the box saying "Designed by Apple in California"

        1. Joe Gurman

          Re: Apple will lose money anyway

          Erm, most of the content in any of that Apple tat is still manufactured in the US or elsewhere outside of China. It's just assembled there, with the help of the very good industrial; engineering sector there that can source parts from everywhere (not just Shenzen) at the drop of a hat. Some PCBs even sail or fly back and forth across the Pacific before final assembly there.

          1. macjules Silver badge

            Re: Apple will lose money anyway

            Thank you for the enlightenment.

    3. TVU

      Re: Apple will make more money ...

      "by keeping the Beijing government happy than it will keeping several thousand protestors happy"

      Yep, they love kerching! more than they love their supposed principles. That said, they're not the only hi-tech corporation to do this.

      1. 404

        Re: Apple will make more money ...

        >That said, they're not the only hi-tech corporation to do this.

        Doesn't matter - they're the ones who are supposed to 'Think Different'...

    4. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Apple will make more money ...

      Shut up, and make money!

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    "will stand up to unreasonable requests by the authorities"

    Yes, but only in countries where its CEO will not be arrested and tortured in a dark cell.

    How courageous.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    I doubt it was U.S. law that the app was violating

    U.S. laws are pretty broadly written to allow assembly and to track demonstration-related police activity. Part of the constitutional protections of peaceful assembly.

    More likely is that somebody in the PRC government complained to Apple.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I doubt it was U.S. law that the app was violating

      In case you've not been following, the latest demonstrations in HK are anything but peaceful.

      1. ThadiasVonBasterd

        Re: I doubt it was U.S. law that the app was violating

        The time for peaceful protest is long past.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: I doubt it was U.S. law that the app was violating

        @AC. Did I mention that the protests in Hong Kong were peaceful or not? I only responded to the proposal in the article that the app was banned because it violated U.S. law. It doesn't. It probably would if it doxxed certain cops that were involved in riot or demonstration control, but having an app that points out that there is a demonstration taking place at a certain place and that police are gathering at that or another point is very legal.

      3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        Re: I doubt it was U.S. law that the app was violating

        @AC - "In case you've not been following, the latest demonstrations in HK are anything but peaceful."

        It's complicated. The clashes are becoming more violent, on both sides. However, the largest demonstrations are still peaceful. The general pattern is that there will be a large gathering of peaceful protestors in the afternoon, who slowly disperse, leaving more violent protestors and the police. Also note the "Lennon Walls", some people tear down the posters, but very soon people fill the walls again: a peaceful demonstration (well, until a fight breaks out).

        @ThadiasVonBasterd - "The time for peaceful protest is long past."

        Yes. Now is the time to start an independent inquiry and reconciliation.

  5. jake Silver badge

    "specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement"

    So does fucking email, Apple. Or any other application that allows human beings to communicate in (near) real-time. Going to ban all of 'em, or are you hypocrites?

    Stop kissing the ass of China, you money-grubbing bastards. Or would your shareholders get mad if you had to pay adults adult wages to manufacture your overpriced haberdashery?

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: "specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement"

      str1 = Or would your shareholders get mad if you had to pay adults adult wages to manufacture your overpriced haberdashery?

      str1 = replace(str1, "your shareholders","western consumers")

      str1 = replace(str1, "your overpriced haberdashery","all their stuff")


      Now we are all guilty.

  6. sbt Silver badge

    It's the CCP's fault.

    They can't even honour the HK handover agreement or international judgements on territorial claims in the South China Sea. I feel sorry for the mainlanders who can't even protest or even hear about it.

    Apple on the other hand are a risk-averse profit-making business that doesn't need to care about sides in politics, only power. They will happily nix any app that makes them uncomfortable including via diplomatic pressure from a key supplier and customer market. Just like YT will de-monetize videos dealing with awkward subjects. These businesses are not here to serve people, promote regime change or help rock the boat.

    There shouldn't be a monopoly on app stores.

  7. mevets Bronze badge

    big news.

    A 4-comma-club company has embraced the establishment like a:

    1. Whore to cocaine?

    2. Drunk to the bottle?

    3. Politician to lying?

    4. ...

    Apple hasn't been in the hippy camp since the last US festival; or really the one before that.

    Pro-privacy is a marketing angle; everybody else covered "spy on you for profit", they own the other corner. Although Brave and DuckDuckGo are starting to cramp their style a bit.

    Pro-freedom? I know he is a bit disgraced, but did anybody consider running this apple == freedom idea past Mr Stallman? I think he must protest a lot.

    The big missed was was was "Pretentious"; because that is what the core of Apple is. They wear the skin of the virtue of the day. Again, what is the virtue stack of the other 4-commas, or near 4-commas.

    1. I3N
      Thumb Up

      Re: big news.

      upped for US festival reference ...

  8. Claverhouse Silver badge

    You can't blame Apple, they are only tools.

  9. el kabong

    Business First!

    The chinese market is huge and full of promise, apple will do everything to avoid losing that market.

    There is no way apple will lose the chinese market over such silly matters as Democracy, Freedom or Human Rights. Business first!

    1. baud

      Re: Business First!

      Apple also has a lot of suppliers in China, like Foxconn. So keeping good relationship is important beyond that market for Apple.

      1. el kabong

        Apple's suppliers in china don't care what apple does ouside of business

        So long as apple keeps paying on time everything will be fine. Business First holds as true for apple suppliers as it does for apple itself.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Apple's suppliers in china don't care what apple does ouside of business

          Yes, but Apple's suppliers in China are worried what the Chinese Government will do to them especially if Apple were so crass as to ruffle the Chinese government feathers.

          Say by allowing apps that purportedly sustain the HK Protests....

        2. VulcanV5

          Re: Apple's suppliers in china don't care what apple does ouside of business

          Interesting notion that Chinese Communism takes the form of thriving private enterprise wholly independent of Government control and Government sanction . Who'd a-thought it?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Context is everything

    ... especially the recent shooting of a protester at point-blank range with live ammunition by a police office.

    Of course, according to some media reports (but not the one linked to from the El Reg's article, though), the said protesting gentleman was at the time attacking a police officer with a metal bar. Other publications have also reported that the gentleman was a part of a larger group attacking another police officer, who was on the ground and unable to defend himself. Naturally, only the people who were on the scene would truly know what has actually happened, the context it happened in, and how the blame for it should be approportioned.

    Now being a mostly harmless civilian, I am completely against the police - or anybody else for that matter - shooting unarmed civilians, at any distance. However, I am also very much against attacking the cops - or anybody else again - with rebar, stones, petrol bombs, or any other weapons. This will only lead to escalation and more violence, on all sides.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Context is everything

      The protestors/rioters have also taken to throwing 'corrosive liquid' at the police (that'll be battery acid to you and me).

      I'd really like those people in HK to come and live over here (US) and try this kind of thing with the police in any American city. By our standards the HK police have been pretty low key so far. (Its not that I condone the police shooting people at random -- they can be far too jumpy/trigger happy here, especially with minorities -- but if you attack the police anywhere in the world then you're likely to get a rapid escalation of force.)

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        Re: Context is everything

        @martinusher - "throwing 'corrosive liquid' at the police (that'll be battery acid to you and me)"

        Actually, I've seen a suggestion that it was drain cleaner, which is more commonly available around here.

        As for who threw it and why - that is unknown. In the latest incident, reporters were also hit, which would be counter-productive to the protestors' aims. In an incident on 13 Sept, drain cleaner from thrown from a building at protestors. A few idiot protestors, or agent provocateurs or both?

        As for the HK police being pretty low key - Alongside the actions of the front-line officers are the statements by the Police spokespeople and commanders. There is complete denial that officers have done anything wrong. As complaints against the Police are investigated by the Police (CAPO, and then passed to the IPCC for review), this does not give confidence that the complaints will be seriously or fairly investigated. The Police have been caught lying and have not apologised: as one example, after the Yuen Long attacks on 21 July, a spokesman stated that Police at the scene did not see people with weapons, but a video showed Police talking with white-shirted men holding sticks. This gives an impression that the Police are deliberately stepping aside and ignoring crimes against peaceful protestors, but responding with maximum force when it suits them.

    2. Gordon861

      Re: Context is everything

      I think I saw video of the incident on C4 News last week, it was how you described it. When I saw the footage I thought that the cop was within his rights to fire.

      Not that this in any way condones the other punishment beatings that appear to being handed out by the police elsewhere.

  11. Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day

    Hopefully history will be the judge of Apple and Co

    Its judgement should be harsh.

  12. adam payne

    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.

    I think it's reasonable to conclude it was taken down by request of the Chinese authorities.

    Got to keep the Chinese happy since most of your suppliers are based there and China is a massive market you don't to lose.

  13. GnuTzu

    Government App Tracking People???

    I find myself wondering, in contrast, what if any apps are out there that are published by governments to track people, especially those about which a government would have worries. {Insert paranoid conspiracy fantasy here.}

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: Government App Tracking People???

      The HK Government has such an app:

      Mobile app "Safeguard HK" updated to feature hiker tracking service and useful travel phrases in additional languages

      Published Match 2018, hikers can use it to track and record their locations using GPS in the next 24 hours. The tracking happens at the user's request, for a limited period. I'm sure they wouldn't include a remote activation switch, would they?

  14. Joe Gurman

    Did you ever bother to read Apple's statements for years....

    ....that the "hippie, pro-privacy, pro-freedom Apple" obeyed all laws whatever country it operates in? Whether that's not opening stores in India whilst the laws there prohibited storefronts without a majority local ownership, or kowtowing to the new Dear Leader for Life in Beijing, this is not what qualifies as news in any shape or form.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Did you ever bother to read Apple's statements for years....

      It doesn't qualify as news? For one thing, the article clearly says that it's not clear what law is being considered. And for another thing, just because it is a legal move under Chinese law doesn't mean it's completely irrelevant; they can follow the law and we might still want to know. And given how many people have commented already, we clearly thought it was important enough to read the article. And for one last thing, just because it follows Chinese law doesn't mean we have to agree to it. Plenty of things that are legal get lots of disagreement. Frequently, that's the first step to having a law changed. Sometimes, it's just people who hold an opinion about what would be nice.

      Deciding that something is "not news" is hard. If 1) it happened, 2) people care, and 3) it's unusual or new, it's news. Number three can be optional. In this case, 1) the app was taken down, I.E. it happened, 2) many people have proven that they find the story interesting enough to comment on it here and on other sites, I.E. people care, and 3) the app in question was an unusual one having to do with a protest and interactions with police and the decision to take it down was made on an unclear basis, I.E. it's unusual. It's news.

  15. Ilgaz

    No trillion dollar company can be peace loving, democratic hippie. When we talk about China, we talk about trillion dollar business interests including a gigantic government.

    The issue is, there is no such thing as allowing third party sources to install software. It is just that. If you really expect Ms or Google to "stand up against China!!!" you are naive.

  16. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Tiananmen begin again

    At my sisters wedding just before the Tiananmen massacre I was sat with two older married colleagues from my mums civil service work. The husband was a self avowed Marxist who supported the Chinese government's 'defence against foreign interference', yet who also worked as a negotiator for the Thatcher government against the nurses strike here. Where as his wife was a lovely woman who divorced him months after the massacre. You never recover socially from having supported a murderous tyranny.

    It is worth noting though that far more civilians have been murdered in Kashmir recently with far less press simply because India is deemed a democracy friendly to Trump. And this clash is more likely to cause a nuclear blitz.

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: Tiananmen begin again

      @Danny 2 - "simply because India is deemed a democracy friendly to Trump'

      Nothing to do with HK being a major international finance hub, 20 times the GDP of Kashmir, filled with international reporters, with a large airport and strong communications links? Not saying that there isn't bias, just that it's not all US political bias.

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Tiananmen begin again

        I didn't mention US bias, I tend to think in UK terms. My point was that Kashmir is a potential, perhaps likely, nuclear flashpoint that could threaten our species, whereas Hong Kong is just yet another state massacre that won't have any outside repercussions.

        I'm not saying we shouldn't be paying attention to Hong Kong - it's sad the UK is so self-diminished just now that our attention doesn't matter - I'm just saying Kashmir is far worse for the locals and potentially for us and it isn't getting media attention. Perhaps just because it doesn't have strong communications links, perhaps because it is poorer as you say. But nukes.

    2. sbt Silver badge

      Friendly democracies?

      There seem to be a few misconceptions here; the US doesn't care about democracy elsewhere; it will be friends with theocracies like Saudi Arabia if it suits economic or balance of power (enemy's enemy) political considerations. Trump seems inconsistent on traditional allies, favouring "strong men" like Putin and Kim (once 'little rocket man', but they 'fell in love' or he 'moved on him like a bitch' I forget which). Meanwhile the European democracies get short shrift.

      I'm not saying it's always about oil or communism. But it often is.

      When it's a choice between muslims and non-muslims, it's always the non-muslims. I think that explains Kashmir (and to some extent, Israel).

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  18. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Product not available from outlet A. Meh. Go to outlet B. Film at ten.

  19. Roland6 Silver badge

    and so under the same logic, apps such as driving app Waze should also be banned.

    That argument is obtuse of course given that 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. ...

    A quick glance at Waze shows that argument isn't obtuse - waze allows a user to report the presence of police at a specific location. In fact it could be argued that the primary purpose of Waze is to permit users to report on 'activity' at a specific geo-location - the A-to-B routing capabilities enabling people to avoid reported 'activities' being a secondary feature ie. having collected all this geo-data what use can we put it to...

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  21. Roland6 Silver badge

    Fatal Flaw in the AppStore Walled Garden Business Model

    It doesn't really matter if the Chinese authorities have had a quiet cough in Apple's corporate ear or not, the walled garden and app store model puts too much power in one place and a place with a clear conflict of interest: want to sell your devices in our market then you abide by our guidance about what can and in this case can not be in your app store.

    Google, by allowing users to sideload app's may to a certain extent be able to avoid this problem, provided they don't have a means to remotely disable/uninstall sideloaded app's.

    it is nice [ironic] to see a mega corp in "the land of the free" aiding and abetting the repressive government of a one party state...

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. VulcanV5

    A app to track Apple product users

    Seeing as how in the interests of personal security it makes sense to steer clear of unbalanced irrational individuals, an app which allows users to see how close they may be to the location of someone who owns an Apple product would be of benefit to many.

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