Apple Inc on Wednesday October 9th removed an app that protesters in Hong Kong have used to track police movements from its online store, saying it violated rules because it was used to ambush police, Reuters has reported.
Apple had only just last week approved the HKmap.live app, which crowdsources the locations of both police and protesters, after rejecting it earlier in October.
The company said in a statement that it had begun an immediate investigation after "many concerned customers in Hong Kong" contacted it about the app, with Apple finding it had endangered law enforcement and residents.
"The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police and threaten public safety. Criminals have used it to victimise residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement," according to the statement.
The HKlive.map app was removed from Apple's app store globally but continued to work for users who had previously downloaded it in Hong Kong, Reuters found. A web version was also still viewable on iPhones.
The US tech giant had been criticised by China over the app, with the Chinese Communist Party's official newspaper calling it "poisonous" and expressing outrage at what it said was Apple's complicity in helping the Hong Kong protesters.
Research firm Newzoo says that mainland Chinese consumers accounted for about a third of all iPhone users globally in 2018. It estimated that last year China had 243 million iPhone users, which made up 33% of the worldwide total of 728 million users of the device in that period.