TECH Apple, Google face criticism for app that lets Saudi men track and restrict women


Apple, Google face criticism for app that lets Saudi men track and restrict women


17:32, February 14, 2019


(File photo: PCMag)

NEW YORK, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Apple and Google are facing criticism for offering an application that lets men in Saudi Arabia track and restrict women's movements.

The app, called Absher, is listed in Apple's app store and the Google Play store as a Saudi eServices Mobile Application, offering service that can "safely browse your profile or your family members, or labors working for you, and perform a wide range of eServices online."

Apple CEO Tim Cook told US National Public Radio that he would investigate the situation. "I haven't heard about it," he said. "But obviously we'll take a look at it if that's the case."

Absher platforms for individuals and businesses have more than 11 million users, according to the Saudi Interior Ministry website.

The ministry designed the app as an e-government and e-services portal, including functions like requesting a passport, birth certificate, vehicle registration or other documentation. But actually it also allows Saudi men to track women's travel, as well as restrict their destinations and prevent them from traveling anywhere outside the country at all.

"We call on Apple and Google to assess the risk of human rights abuses on women, which is facilitated by the App, and mitigate the harm that the App has on women," Amnesty International told the Washington Post in a statement.

Human Rights Watch senior researcher on women's rights Rothna Begum said the app was "really designed with the men in mind. Of course, it's incredibly demeaning, insulting and humiliating for the women and downright abusive in many cases."

Under Saudi Arabia's guardianship system, Saudi women aren't allowed to travel without permission from their male guardian, typically a relative.

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