Senator calls for Google, Apple to drop Saudi app that monitors women

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Saudi Arabia's interior ministry said 11 million people use the app and Google has said it has been downloaded one million times from their store.

The app also lets men in Saudi Arabia specify when and where to adult women under their "guardianship", including wives and unmarried daughters, are allowed to travel.

Using Absher, Saudi men can restrict the travel of Saudi women by first allowing or disallowing them to leave the country, and the men can also limit the dates and places women are permitted to travel. The monitoring aspects of the app are used by Saudi men because women in the country are restricted and can not leave the country without permission from their husbands or fathers. Women must gain consent by their male guardians - a father, uncle, husband, brother, or son - to do everything from school enrollment to paid employment. Both stores have policies banning inappropriate content such as the promotion of hate speech, graphic violence, bullying and harassment. The second highlighted criticism of Apple and Google by human rights campaigners for hosting the app.

"It's really designed with the men in mind", says Rothna Begum, a senior researcher on women's rights at Human Rights Watch. "Of course, it's incredibly demeaning, insulting and humiliating for the women and downright abusive in many cases, because you're allowing men absolute control over women's movements".

A Saudi Arabian app that can be used to track women and prevent them from travelling will be investigated by Apple, its chief executive has said. Before apps became such a huge part of our daily lives, Saudi women had to present a signed yellow form whenever they travelled overseas unaccompanied by their guardians, which was easier to forge, but because Absher works in real-time, it's much harder to get around.

The app remained available for both iOS and Android as of late Tuesday evening.

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"I haven't heard about it", Cook told NPR.

"There's a definite tragedy in the world's most technologically progressive platforms, Apple and Google, facilitating the most archaic misogyny".

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have expressed concern over Apple and Google's continued hosting of the app. "When they're evaluating whether an app should be allowed. providers really should consider the broader context or the goal of the app, how it's being used in practice and whether it's facilitating abuse".

However, this is far from the only Saudi government activity that has invited backlash as of late.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman indicated past year he favored ending the guardianship system but stopped short of backing its annulment.

Under his tenure the kingdom has remained a USA military ally that receives large shipments of weapons from the states, despite the prince's wide-ranging crackdowns on dissent and waging of a brutal war in Yemen characterised by allegations of war crimes.

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