Published: Wed, February 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Apple takes heat over Saudi app that tracks women

Apple takes heat over Saudi app that tracks women

Talking about it to National Public Radio, Cook said he was not aware of the app but promised to take action if that was the case. And it's drawing criticism, especially from human rights advocacy groups.

"I am demanding that Google and Apple pull down apps that promote abusive practices against women in Saudi Arabia", Wyden said on Twitter.

The Absher app, which is designed for a range of government services, such as renewing driving licences, makes the process of allowing or prohibiting travel a lot easier, and it can be done via a smartphone.

Apple does not include the number of downloads for apps, but according to the Google Play store, Absher has been installed on devices more than 1 million times.

Business Insider's sister site INSIDER has reported extensively on Absher, which pushes alerts to men when women use their passports to leave the country.

"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". In the days since, human rights groups have called for Apple and Google to remove the app.


"It is hardly news that the Saudi monarchy seeks to restrict and repress Saudi women, but American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government's patriarchy", Wyden wrote.

The app also lets men in Saudi Arabia specify when and where to adult women under their "guardianship", including wives and unmarried daughters, are allowed to travel.

"There's a definite tragedy in the world's most technologically progressive platforms, Apple and Google, facilitating the most archaic misogyny". This is another example of how the Saudi Arabian government has produced tools to limit women's freedoms. "What irony. In the West these technologies are used to improve lives and in Saudi Arabia they're used to enforce gender apartheid", ex-Muslim activist Yasmine Mohammed, added.

Now Google and Apple are facing backlash for hosting the service on their app stores.

Saudi Arabia's human rights record has been under heavy scrutiny since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi late a year ago. The Crown Prince got a rare tour inside the $5 billion Apple Park campus, in California, which included face time with Cook and other top executives.

The aim of the visit was to change Westerns perspective on Saudi Arabia as a backward and conservative country dependent on oil money where women are treated as second-class people.

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