Apple and Google, America’s technological giants are in hot water for hosting a Saudi Arabian government app on their respective application stores that track the whereabouts of Saudi women.
The app basically lets Saudi men (who are supposedly guardians of Saudi women) track their wives, daughters, sisters etc. It’s well known throughout the western world that Saudi Arabia has a culture which is a polar opposite to the western culture and therefore generates a lot of criticism from the USA and Europe because of their ultra-conservative norms. Therefore it comes as a surprise when American companies such as Google and Apple that promote gender-equality are hosting an app that negates woman’s freedom in Saudi Arabia.
The app, ‘Absher’ has been downloaded more than one million times and has normal features like renewing driving permits or paying the parking fine. However, the app has a controversial feature which gives men control over women. According to the guardian laws in Saudi Arabia, women must gain consent by their male guardian for basically everything, from enrolling in school to getting employed.
This is where the app plays an integral role, by using this feature the man can input woman’s name and passport number and can then decide the number of trips the woman can take, how long can she travel and whether to cancel the woman’s travel or not. If for some reason, the woman decides not to follow the approved travel profile, the guardian (man) gets an immediate SMS-alert about the details of the woman’s travel.
The reason why Google and Apple are under fire is that these two companies have allowed the app to feature on Play Store and App store respectively. This goes against their company policies, as the app negates basic human rights. Amnesty International, Human rights watch and Woman’s rights activists called on the two tech companies to reconsider their decision of hosting the app on their app platform and remove it, the activists further went on to accuse the two companies of promoting misogyny and facilitating “gender apartheid.”
Neither of the companies has responded to these accusations, but if the app is going against Google and Apple’s policy, then it will be removed from their platforms.