Google and Apple host app that tracks Saudi women
Men can log travel information of women in their family and use the app to track their every step.
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA — Google and Apple are under fire for hosting an app from the Saudi government that allows men to monitor women under their 'guardianship', reports This Is Insider.
The app in question is called Absher. It works as an e-service portal for the Saudi Interior Ministry. Users can use the app to pay traffic fines and renew their licenses remotely.
Saudi men can also use this app to track their wives and unmarried daughter's. Men can log travel information of women in their family and use it the app to track their every step.
Under Saudi Arabia's archaic 'guardianship system' women are not allowed to apply for any travel documents without the approval of a male guardian — let alone travel outside the country by themselves. Guardians are typically their husbands, or for the unmarried, their fathers.
The app facilitates that. Men can choose to receive SMS texts every time a woman under their guardianship uses their passport at an airport check-in or crosses a border.
Guardians also get a clear log of any of their so-called "dependents" and they can cancel a woman's travel paper remotely through the app.
Once a woman is registered in the Absher system it becomes near impossible for them to escape.
Most recently, the world had their eyes on Rahaf Mohammed, an eighteen-year-old who was granted asylum in Canada after escaping from a family vacation in Kuwait.
Democratic U.S. Senator Ron Wyden has tweeted out and sent an open letter to both Google and Apple urging them to take down the app from their stores immediately. In his letter, he wrote, "American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government's patriarchy."
About 1,000 women escape Saudi Arabia each year.
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