Apple, Google urged to remove app that lets Saudi men track wives

14 February, 2019, 08:52 | Author: Regina Silva
  • Saudi women's rights activists

Apple and Google are facing calls to disable a phone app that allows men in Saudi Arabia to monitor their wives, sisters and daughters to stop them leaving the country.

"By permitting the app in your respective stores, your companies are making it easier for Saudi men to control their family members from the convenience of their smartphones to restrict their movements", Wyden wrote Monday to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. "But obviously we'll take a look at it". But as a Business Insider piece last week noted, it also allows for male Saudis "to specify when and how women can cross Saudi borders, and to get close to real-time SMS updates when they travel".

The man receives a notification if a dependent woman attempts to leave the country.

"There's a definite tragedy in the world's most technologically progressive platforms, Apple and Google, facilitating the most archaic misogyny". He said the app "flies in the face of the type of society you both claim to support and defend".

The Saudi Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Absher is the digital manifestation of the system, and is where men manage much of women's lives.

According to the description of the app in the Apple Store, with Absher, "you can safely browse your profile or your family members, or [laborers] working for you, and perform a wide range of eServices online". Business Insider has reported that these restrictions can be imposed via Absher.

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"The use of the Absher app to curtail the movement of women once again highlights the disturbing system of discrimination against women under the guardianship system and the need for genuine human rights reforms in the country, rather than just social and economic reforms", Amnesty added. In a 2008 report by Human Rights Watch, multiple abuses against around 1.5 million migrant domestic workers (primarily from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines) in Saudi Arabia were documented, including non-payment of salaries, forced confinement, food deprivation, excessive workload and severe psychological, physical and sexual abuse.

Women in Saudi Arabia have limited options in terms of where they're allowed to go and what they're allowed to do, but American companies shouldn't facilitate the kingdom's system of discriminating against half its population.

The resulting impact on freedom of movement has been corroborated in the article by multiple activists and experts on the Middle East and human rights. "Absher allows Saudi men to control the travel of Saudi women". The calls for change come amid an enduring scandal over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

During the visit, bin Salman was on a charm offensive, according to The New York Times.

"These companies shouldn't enable these abusive practices against women in Saudi Arabia", he said on February 11.

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