Apple ‘Assessing’ Hong Kong National Security Law as Other Tech Companies Pause Data Requests

Apple is assessing a new Hong Kong security law that makes “subversion” of the government illegal and raises concerns about the criminalization of protests, reports Bloomberg.

China last week implemented legislation allowing local authorities to supervise and regulate internet access in Hong Kong. The new measures criminalize acts that were previously considered protected speech under Hong Kong law, such as the ongoing protests.

In a statement, Apple said that it already requires content requests from local law enforcement authorities to be submitted through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the U.S. and Hong Kong. Apple also says that it has not received requests for Hong Kong user data since the law went into effect last week, though it is under assessment.

“Apple has always required that all content requests from local law enforcement authorities be submitted through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in place between the United States and Hong Kong,” the company said. Under that process, “the U.S. Department of Justice reviews Hong Kong authorities’ requests for legal conformance.”

Earlier today, tech companies that include WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter said they would pause the processing of requests for user data from Hong Kong law enforcement agencies due to the implementation of the new security law.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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WhatsApp Stops Processing Requests for User Data From Hong Kong Authorities

WhatsApp has suspended its processing of requests for user data from Hong Kong law enforcement agencies, in response to China’s imposition of a new national security law on the city, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The company is “pausing” such reviews “pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts,” a WhatsApp spokeswoman said in response to a Wall Street Journal query on Monday.

The decision by WhatsApp comes after China fast-tracked legislation that allows local authorities to supervise and regulate the city’s previously unrestricted internet. The controversial new law, which took effect on Tuesday, criminalizes acts that were previously considered protected speech under Hong Kong law.

As the report notes, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter have operated freely in Hong Kong for many years, allowing residents of the semi-autonomous metropolitan area to express political views online, outside the grip of China’s “Great Firewall” that restricts internet use on the mainland. The fear is that the new law brings Hong Kong another step closer to the authoritarian digital censorship that ringfences mainland internet users.

Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram have been blocked in China for years, with the country’s government favoring home grown alternative services that it can more easily regulate. Encrypted messaging service Telegram was also blocked inside China after it became popular with the country’s human rights lawyers, while several domestic VPNs – which are commonly used to evade censorship and access services abroad – were shut down after authorities said they were unauthorized to run.

Western powers have condemned the imposition of the new security law in Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom considers it to be a “clear and serious” violation of the Joint Declaration that was signed between the two countries when the former colony was handed back to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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Apple Maps Transit Directions Now Live for Hong Kong Residents, Apple Pay Octopus Also Launches

Apple has updated its Maps app to include real time transit directions and data for Hong Kong residents.

Image credit: @HappyETwmc

From today, local Apple Maps users can search for metro train stations, bus routes and ferry piers, and get real time transit information for services. The only limitation appears to be a lack of indoor station mapping.

The metropolitan area is one location in Asia where hints of transit support surfaced months ago. However, Apple’s Hong Kong mapping has been a complicated issue because of the administrative region’s self-governance and autonomy disputes with mainland China.

As noted by tech blog Ata Distance, ‌Apple Maps‌ actually uses two different map data sources for Hong Kong – AutoNavi map data for mainland SIM iPhones, and another one for non-mainland SIM iPhones. This led to an unusual situation in which transit directions where available to Chinese visitors but not to residents of Hong Kong.

Also today, Apple Pay Octopus launched in Hong Kong, just before 1.00 a.m. local time. A press event is scheduled to take place at 12.30 p.m. local time.

‌Apple Pay‌ Octopus is similar to ‌Apple Pay‌ Suica with Express Transit – users just hold the top of their iPhone or Apple Watch near an Octopus reader to use, and there’s no need to unlock the device or open an app. Even if the device shuts down due to low battery, users can still use Octopus.

Apple Octopus Pay is compatible with ‌iPhone‌ 8 and later devices updated to iOS 13.5, and ‌Apple Watch‌ Series 3 and later running watchOS 6.2.5.

Octopus Cards Limited first announced ‌Apple Pay‌ Octopus would be “coming soon” in July 2019, but the launch was pushed back several times, eventually to “later in 2020” without explanation.

(Thanks, Sean!)


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