“An app that allows Saudi men to track the whereabouts of their wives and daughters is available in the Apple and Google app stores in Saudi Arabia. But the U.S. tech giants are getting blowback from human rights activists and lawmakers for carrying the app,” Laura Sydell reports for NPR. “The app, called Absher, was created by the National Information Center, which according to a Saudi government website is a project of the Saudi Ministry of Interior.”
Sydell reports, “This week, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sent a letter to both companies asking 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 wrote.”
It is unconscionable that @Google and @Apple are making it easier to track women and control when and how they travel. These companies shouldn’t enable these abusive practices against women in Saudi Arabia. https://t.co/RDhZoTiQnP
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) February 11, 2019
“In an interview with NPR on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked about Absher. ‘I haven’t heard about it,’ he said. ‘But obviously we’ll take a look at it if that’s the case,'” Sydell reports. “NPR also reached out to Google, but the company has not responded.”
MacDailyNews Take: Because Google was too busy tracking everybody.
“Rothna Begum, a senior researcher on women’s rights at Human Rights Watch… says she can see how the companies might not have realized initially that the app could be used for monitoring women. “It has other services that are quite generic and normal government services,” she says,'” Sydell reports. “Google and Apple need to push back against the Saudi government and either disable the app entirely or disable the features that enable men to track women in their families. ‘By not saying anything,’ she says, ‘they’ve allowed the government to facilitate the abuse.'”
Read more in the full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: As of publication, the Absher app is still available via Apple’s U.S. App Store and carries the rather innocuous description, in part, and in somewhat broken English: “Absher has been designed and developed with special consideration to security and privacy of user’s data and communication. So, you can safely browse your profile or your family members, or labors working for you, and perform a wide range of eServices online.”
So, it’s pretty easy to see how Apple could have missed the app’s implications during the approval process.