Screenshot via Apple
Human rights activists and lawmakers are chastising the tech giants for hosting ‘Absher’, an app by the National Information Center, which a government portal says is a project of the Saudi Ministry of Interior.
The app’s description reads, “You can safely browse your profile or your family members, or [laborers] working for you, and perform a wide range of eServices online.”
According to NPR, Saudi women’s lives are “highly restricted.” They’ll need permission from a male guardian, whether a father or husband, to leave the country.
With ‘Absher’, it will be much more convenient for men to track the whereabouts of their wives or daughters.
US Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon penned a letter to both Apple and Google calling for the removal of the app:
“Saudi men can also reportedly use ‘Absher’ to receive real-time text message alerts every time these women enter or leave the country or to prevent these women from leaving the country,” he said.
Rothna Begum, a senior researcher of women’s rights at international nonprofit Human Rights Watch, said, “It’s really designed with the men in mind… 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.”
When asked to comment on the controversy, Apple CEO Tim Cook told NPR that the company will investigate the app.
“I haven’t heard about [‘Absher’],” said Cook. “But obviously we’ll take a look at it if that’s the case.”[via NPR, cover screenshot via Apple]