Apple reverses ban on app tracking Hong Kong protests & police

A bit of good news for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and the app developers trying to help them not get injured or killed by police.

Apple has reportedly reversed its decision to ban the app, which allows users to track protests and police activity in Hong Kong. The earlier move to ban the app was seen by many as acquiescence to China's foreign policy, over the urgent needs of Apple users.

(Our Cory Doctorow has written about the app previously here at Boing Boing.)

As Cory explained when Apple yanked HKMapLive:

Hkmap Live is a crowdsourced app that uses reports from a Telegram group to track the locations of protesters, police, and traffic, as well as the use of antipersonnel weapons like tear gas, mass arrests of people wearing t-shirts associated with the protest movement, and mass transit closures in proximity to demonstrations (it's a bit like Sukey, the British anti-kettling app).

The escalation of indiscriminate violence by Hong Kong's police has driven mainstream opposition to the Chinese state and the Hong Kong authorities. The protests continue to grow, the the police continue to attack families, elderly people, bystanders, and the main body of protesters, with no mercy or quarter — including the on-camera, point-blank shooting of an unarmed, nonviolent protester. In this context, Hkmap isn't just a way for protesters to evade police, it's a survival lifeline for innocent people facing an occupying army of sadistic armed thugs.

Mark Gurman at Bloomberg News reports on today's decision by Apple to restore HKMapLive to the App Store:

On Friday, Apple reversed the decision and the app has been approved for sale in Hong Kong. "Apple finally made the right decision," the developer said.

The developer said the app is built to "show events happening" in Hong Kong, but what users choose to do with that information is their choice. "We don't encourage any advice on the map in general. Our ultimate goal is safety for everyone."

On Twitter, the developer had argued that the rejection was unfair because other apps, such as Google's Waze, help drivers avoid traffic cameras and police. Apple is assuming that users are lawbreakers "and therefore evading law enforcement, which is clearly not the same," the developer wrote on Twitter. By contrast, the app was approved for download on Android phones via a "quick process," the developer added.

HKMapLive says they're still not live yet in the store, however…