Saudi app used to track women ‘not against’ Google rules

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screenshots of AbsherImage copyright
Absher

Google has remained silent over reports it told a US congresswoman that a controversial app was not in breach of its terms and conditions.

Saudi app Absher can be used by men to track women and prevent them from travelling.

The office of Jackie Speier confirmed to the BBC that a verbal conversation took place with Google after she co-wrote a letter of complaint about the app.

Google declined to comment.

Absher is currently available on both Apple and Google’s app stores.

The app, which also offers access to government services, has been criticised by human rights groups.

In addition to enabling users to carry out tasks like renewing their driving licence, it also asks men to list dependent women. It can then be used to either deny or allow individual travel.

Women in Saudi Arabia need the permission of a male guardian, usually their husband or father, to leave the country.

It has been downloaded more than a million times and has been around for several years.

In February, Apple CEO Tim Cook told NPR the firm would investigate.

Ms Speier said she found the responses of both Apple and Google “unsatisfactory”.

“To say I’m disappointed in their failure to show a sustained commitment to human rights is an understatement,” she said.

In Saudi Arabia, opinion about Absher is divided.

“Men control how women travel in Saudi Arabia,” wrote one commentator on social news site Reddit.

“That’s mandated by law. Not just they can, but they have to. They can be permissive, but they still have to give permission. This app makes it easier for them to do so. It makes it easier for women to travel, not harder.”



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