Google is following Apple’s lead in investigating a controversial Saudi app which allowed men to follow the locations of their wife or daughters.
Tim Cook said yesterday that Apple was looking into the app to find out whether complaints made about it were accurate. Google has now told the New York Times that it plans to do the same.
“A Google spokesman confirmed that the company is assessing the app to determine if it is in accordance with its policies,” the Times reported.
A problematic app
Called Absher, the app is mainly for carrying out mundane municipal activities such as paying traffic fines. However, in accordance with Saudi laws requiring every woman to have a male legal guardian, it also makes it possible for users to track female family members.
In some cases, it has reportedly been used by men to stop women in their family from leaving the country. It does this by notifying them when their passports are being used.
The app has been heavily criticized in the U.S. In an open letter to Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote that it, “flies in the face of the type of society [Cook and Pichai] claim to support and defend.”
Absher is a patriarchal weapon: it allows Saudi men to track women, restrict their travel, and enable human rights violations. #Apple and #Google must stop facilitating this dangerous tool of control. https://t.co/5pLzKlLrKk
— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) February 13, 2019
Democratic Party Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark tweeted that, “Absher is a patriarchal weapon: it allows Saudi men to track women, restrict their travel, and enable human rights violations.”
It has also been criticized by human rights activists, such as those associated with the group Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Speaking on National Public Radio, Tim Cook said that he was not personally aware of the app. However, he noted that, “obviously we’ll take a look at it if [the complaints about it are accurate].” At time of writing, the app is still available in the App Store. It’s not clear whether this particular function has been amended.
Source: Business Insider