The removal of two apps from the App Store in Hong Kong brought Apple into the public eye once again, as the controversial decision was seen by most as the company bending to Chinese will and criticism.
Much like Apple's official statement over the concerns, CEO Tim Cook's recent email to employees gave a detailed explanation for why the removal happened. "You have likely seen the news that we made the decision to remove an app from the App Store entitled HKmap.live," wrote Cook in the beginning. "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."
"It is no secret that technology can be used for good or for ill. This case is no different," continued Cook, who mentioned that the HKmap.live app allowed "crowdsourced reporting and mapping of police checkpoints, protest hotspots, and other information."
Cook further wrote that the "benign" information given by the app was found to be "used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property" by the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau as well as from users in the country. He said that this use of the app put it in violation of Hong Kong's law and the App Store guidelines over its widespread abuse.
"National and international debates will outlive us all, and, while important they do not govern the facts," said Cook in defense of Apple's decision. He concluded that the company "thoroughly reviewed them" and believes that this decision best protected its users.