Every Saudi women has a male guardian which can be her father, husband or even sometimes her brother or son. Her guardian must give her permission to travel abroad, to get a passport, to get certain medical procedures and also to get married.
Absher was launched in 2015 by the Saudi government which Apple and Google later hosted on their play store. Absher an app used by the Saudi Arabians is an app that allows both men and women to access a range of government services like applying for a new ID card, paying traffic tickets, etc. and also with the Absher app women can be tracked or controlled by their guardians especially when travelling abroad. The tracking of women is just one of the features of the app.
Senator Ron Wyden, the democrat of Oregon urged Apple and Google to remove the app from their platforms, accusing them of facilitating gender discrimination.
Mr. Ron Wyden demanded as much in a letter to the two tech giants saying that “It is hardly news that the Saudi Monarchy seeks to restrict and repress Saudi women but American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government patriarchy, The companies were making it easier for Saudi men to control their family members from the convince of their smartphones and restrict their movements.” He also said that they should prevent their companies from being used by the Saudi Government to enable the abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
Rothna Begum, Senior Women’s Rights Researcher at the Campaign Group of Human Rights Watch explains how the app has affected Saudi Arabian women from travelling. Rothna Begum called Apple and Google to act because apps are not to be used to facilitate abuse and discrimination.
Rothna Begum says that “Now that they have been alerted to it, that should go back to the Saudi government and tell them to remove the functionality that allows men to control and track women.”
A Google spokesman confirmed that the company is assessing the app to determine if it is in accordance with its policies.
In an interview with the National Public Radio, Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple said that “He had not heard of it but will take a look at it if that is the case.”