Apple's App Store and Google Play Store continue to house the Saudi government app Absher, which allows men in the country to track the movements of their female relatives and restrict their freedom of movement.
According to the Washington Post, the app designed by the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry serves as an e-government and e-services portal with features such as applying for a passport, birth certificate, vehicle registration or other documents. As mentioned in Business Insider's last week, male Saudis can "state when and how women can cross Saudi Arabia's borders and receive near-real-time SMS updates during their journey." Absheres can be used to restrict targets that Saudi Arabian women can travel and prevent them from traveling anywhere outside the country, and the SMS notification system is used to warn the men when women try to walk alone given the fact that women in Saudi Arabia Arabia live under a patriarchal "guardianship system", they must be legally dependent on a man – and be given permission by this man to attend school, manage their work and finances, marry and travel abroad or to the public , In addition, women must have male escorts in many situations and have fewer legal rights than men. They can be arrested for "disobedience". Absher obviously seems to automate elements of this system, and as the Post notes, the ministry claims 11 million users.
Critics say the app violates the policies in both stores, such as bullying and harassment.
"We urge Apple and Google to assess the risk of human rights abuses in women, which is facilitated by facilitating women's app, and mitigate the harm the app has to women," Amnesty International told the Post an explanation. "The use of the Absher app to restrict the women's movement once again underlines the disturbing system of discrimination against women in the guardianship system and the need for genuine human rights reforms in the country, not just social and economic reforms."  Human Rights Watch, senior women's rights researcher, Rothna Begum told NPR that the app was "really for men. Of course, for women, it is incredibly degrading, offensive and humiliating, and in many cases downright abusive, because it allows men absolute control over women's movements.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden also plundered Google and Apple for hosting the app Monday said the hosting was "indecent" and allowed "abusive practices against women in Saudi Arabia."
According to NPR, the app has been useful for some women trying to escape oppression – but only because they secretly steal their guardian's phone and could use to reserve travel restrictions.
The app was available on Tuesday evening for iOS and Android. On Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook told NPR, "I have not heard, but obviously we'll see if this is the case."
Apple and Google have different systems for flagging inappropriate apps. Apple introduces apps, and Begum says Google relies on its users to alert them to violations. She said that any company should step up its review of state-backed apps, especially when created by repressive regimes.
"You should consider the impact on human rights … especially if it's offered by a government," she says "If they're considering whether an app should be approved … vendors should really be the one." take into account the wider context or purpose of the app, how it is used in practice, and whether abuse is facilitated. "
Apple and Google did not do this Gizmodo immediately asks for comments on this story and we will update it when we hear again.
However, this is by no means the only activity of the Saudi government that has recently led to backlashes. His authoritarian monarchy is currently under the de facto control of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who seeks to identify himself as a technology-friendly reformer seeking to modernize the country and build an economy that is not dependent on oil.
Under his tenure, the kingdom remained an American military ally, receiving large arms shipments from states, despite the Prince's far-reaching crackdown on dissent and the conduct of a brutal Yemeni war characterized by allegations of war crimes. Last year, Saudi Arabian agents tortured and murdered a self-imposed exile dissident journalist and Washington Post columnists Jamal Khashoggi at the country's consulate in Istanbul, causing outrage and persuading many tech companies to join a high-level investment conference withdraw. The government of Donald Trump has responded by issuing credulous statements in support of US-Saudi relations, continuing to sell the national billion in arms and suppress intelligence reports on Khashoggi's death.