Apple and Google pledged to investigate Absher, a Saudi government app which lets users track their family members, after it was heavily criticised by human rights groups.
In an interview with NPR, Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted he didn’t know about the app, adding “obviously we’ll take a look at it”, while a Google representative told The New York Times that the search giant “is assessing the app to determine if it is in accordance with its policies”.
The app was created by the National Information Centre, an agency of the Saudi Ministry of Interior.
Descriptions of Absher on both app stores states “you can safely browse your profile or your family members, or [those] working for you, and perform a wide range of e-services online.”
Rothna Begum from Human Rights Watch said the app is “designed with the men in mind” and “is incredibly demeaning, insulting and humiliating for the women and downright abusive in many cases, because you’re allowing men absolute control over women’s movements.”
However she pointed out the app could have slipped under the radar as it also offers “normal government services”.
US Senator Ron Wyden has written to Google and Apple urging them to remove the app: “Saudi men can also reportedly use Absher to receive real-time text message alerts every time these women enter or leave the country or to prevent these women from leaving the country”.
He added that “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.”Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back