Google and Apple are appealed by Human rights defenders for excluding Absher, the Saudi government app, from their platforms. Activists are saying that the app allows accession to Saudi men to track women under their support.
Sen. Ron Wyden—the top Republican of Oregon on the US Senate Finance Committee—sent a memo to Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai—CEOs of both the organizations—in which he asked them to thwart their technical structure and prohibit application stores to promote objectionable tracking and control over women.
The Absher mobile app was first launched in the Year 2015 for iOS devices and later in 2016, Android devices released it. The Saudi Ministry of Interior stated that the app basically operates on the basis of Saudi government e-portal, under which an array of government services linked to National ID, visa, Hajj, health insurance, and traffic violations among others can be accessed by the users.
Among the above-mentioned services, the app also provides a feature for male guardians to choose whether their dependents are allowed to travel abroad or even outside the set location parameters throughout their travel plans.
Under the restrictive guardianship laws made by Saudi Arabia, women are bounded to travel along with their male guardians. However, analysts argued that the app is technologically influencing such restrictive law, which impacts the daily based life of Saudi females.
A London-based non-governmental organization, Amnesty International, has also called on Google and Apple to consider both the cases, comprising the increasing risk of human rights’ violence related to women through the App and the other causes a reduction in the chances of harm on women through the App.
Rothna Begum—women’s rights researcher for North Africa and the Middle East region—said that Absher app is still being commonly used by Saudi’s since 2015. They are fond of using modern technologies but still following the traditional discrimination-based system with humiliating practices.