Criticism of tech giants allowing a Saudi app that tracks women

Add this to the top of the despicable list. Human rights groups and a US senator are appealing for tech giants Apple and Google to stop hosting a Saudi government app that lets men track women.

According to CBS News, the app, Absher, can be downloaded on the Google Play store and Apple's App Store. It functions as an e-government portal for the Saudi Interior Ministry, and it helps facilitate a guardianship system in a nation that doesn't allow women to travel without permission from a male guardian.

Just when we thought the kingdom was shaking itself up and allowing women to drive, perhaps this is sadly the trade off.

Men can use Absher to curb the travel of Saudi females by letting them leave or not leave the country, as well as restricting when and where women are allowed to go. In Saudi Arabia, it is illegal for women to travel without permission from a male guardian, and under Saudi law, every woman has a legal "guardian" who can restrict her travel to specific airports and routes and get automated alerts when they cross borders, Business Insider revealed.

The alert system, which can be set up inside Absher, is one of the main reasons women trying to flee Saudi Arabia get caught, activists have revealed. The function tips off male guardians while the fleeing women can still be apprehended, according to a report from Business Insider who broke the story last week.

It also states that Absher has been downloaded from Google Play store onto Android devices more than 1 million times. It is not known how many times it has been downloaded from Apple which does not disclose its download figures for apps.

Yasmine Mohammed, an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia, told INSIDER that the companies are "facilitating the most archaic misogyny" and help the Saudi government to enforce "gender apartheid." Human Rights Watch’s Rothna Begum also told Business Insider that "Apple and Google have rules against apps that facilitate threats and harassment. Apps like this one can facilitate human rights abuses, including discrimination against women.”


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