Apple and Google promise to investigate Absher, Saudi government app used to track and control women's freedom of movement

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Article
14 February 2019

Google joins Apple in probing Saudi app that lets men control where women travel, as pressure piles on the tech giants to kill the service

Author: Bill Bostock, Business Insider (USA)

Google has joined Apple in promising to investigate a Saudi app that lets men control women's travel, as pressure from rights groups and international lawmakers builds on the tech giants. Google will review the app to determine whether it violates its policies, a spokesman told The New York Times on Wednesday "...A Google spokesman confirmed that the company is assessing the app to determine if it is in accordance with its policies," The Times reported.

Numerous high-profile US politicians condemned Apple and Google on Wednesday. They called on the tech giants to kill the service from their app stores...On Tuesday, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote to Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai demanding that they "immediately remove" Absher from the App Store and Google Play. The app "flies in the face of the type of society you both claim to support and defend," Wyden wrote. "American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government's patriarchy," he said, calling the Saudi system of control over women "abhorrent."

The Saudi Interior Ministry, who made the app, have responded to the wave of negative media coverage, criticizing attempts to "politicize" the issue.

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Article
13 February 2019

Apple CEO Tim Cook promises to investigate the Saudi app branded 'abhorrent' for allowing men to track women

Author: Bill Bostock, Business Insider (USA)

Apple CEO Tim Cook has pledged to get to the bottom of a Saudi government app hosted on the App Store that was labeled "abhorrent" by a US senator for helping men control where women travel. While speaking with National Public Radio on Tuesday, Cook was asked about Absher, a benign-seeming government app that has been criticized for features meant to let Saudi men control where women travel."I haven't heard about it," Cook told NPR. "But obviously we'll take a look at it if that's the case."

Cook's comments to NPR are the first time Apple has addressed the app after it declined to respond to INSIDER's repeated requests for comment.

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Article
8 February 2019

Apple and Google accused of helping 'enforce gender apartheid' by hosting Saudi government app that tracks women and stops them leaving the country

Author: Bill Bostock, Business Insider (USA)

Apple and Google have been accused of helping to "enforce gender apartheid" in Saudi Arabia, by offering a sinister app that allows men to track women and stop them leaving the country. Both Google Play and iTunes host Absher, a government web service that allows men to specify when and how women can cross Saudi borders, and to get close to real-time SMS updates when they travel.

INSIDER reported on the existence of Absher last week, along with the story of Shahad Al Mohaimeed, a Saudi teen refugee who evaded the system to claim asylum in Sweden...Since the story was published, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both expressed concern about Google's and Apple's roles in hosting the app

Human Rights Watch told INSIDER: "Apple and Google have rules against apps that facilitate threats and harassment. Apps like this one can facilitate human rights abuses, including discrimination against women."

Amnesty International told INSIDER that the SMS alerts are "another example of how the Saudi Arabian government has produced tools to limit women's freedoms." It called on Apple and Google to accept that the app is being used to harm women, and demand changes to stop it happening in the future.

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