Apple, Google face pressure to drop app used to track Saudi women

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Among other functions, the app allows men in Saudi Arabia to dictate when and where adult women under their "guardianship" are allowed to travel, thus allowing their rights to travel through airports and borders to be revoked.

The first explanation that "Absher" facilitates documenting the abuse and discrimination that Saudi women go through is now being challenged as another strategy by the Saudi government to control their women.

The app has been downloaded 4.2 million times on the App Store and 5 million times on Google Play since launching in mid-2015, according to Apptopia. He said the app "flies in the face of the type of society you both claim to support and defend".

Google is following Apple's lead in investigating a controversial Saudi app which allowed men to follow the locations of their wife or daughters.

Apple and Google, both haven't responded on the matter yet.

Saudi Arabia has been treated as an ally of the United States, but that's starting to shift in response to growing pressure over the country's human rights record.

The app, which offers access to government services, has been criticised by human rights groups. They aren't allowed to marry, divorce, travel, get a job or have elective surgery without permission from their male guardians and must wear a full-length black abaya in public. The report also included the story of a teen that successfully evaded Saudi Arabia.

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According to NPR, Begum said the app has proven useful to some women trying to flee oppression-but only because they were able to surreptitiously steal their guardian's phone and use it to remove travel restrictions.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both expressed shock and dismay over the app's continuation on these two platforms despite the fact that it facilitates harassment of women by discriminating against them.

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.

Saudi monarchy efforts to restrict and suppress the women under the garb of oppressive and archaic laws are hardly news to the world but the fact that technology is being used to facilitate such a demeaning and offensive setup surely come as a shock.

Addressing Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, the chief executive officers of Apple and Google, Wyden said the companies were "making it easier for Saudi men to control their family members from the convenience of their smartphones and restrict their movement".

The app alerts male "guardians" to the movements of females, and allows users to revoke travel "privileges" of the women in their "care". As a result, the application has been heavily criticized outside of Saudi Arabia. However, he noted that, "obviously we'll take a look at it if [the complaints about it are accurate]".

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