Apple, Google face backlash for hosting app that allows men to stop women from leaving Saudi Arabia

San Francisco: Apple and Google are in the eye of a storm for for hosting an app that allows men in Saudi Arabia to track and control women’s movements.

According to a report in Insider on Friday, the app called “Absher” lets men to give women permission to travel, and also get SMS when a woman uses her passport at the border.

Listed in the App Store, as well as in Google Play for the Android version, the Absher app is one that allows individuals to use the Saudi Arabian government’s web service. While it can be used for multiple actions, including fairly normal activities such as paying parking fines, the app’s ability for men to monitor and dictate the travel plans of women has caught the attention of critics.

For making the apps available on Google Play and Apple’s App Store, the US-based tech giants have been accused of facilitating misogyny and helping “enforce gender apartheid”.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and a women’s rights activist urged Apple and Google should reconsider hosting the app, Insider reported, adding that the two tech giants did not respond to its requests for comment.

Under Saudi law, it is essential for women to have a legal “guardian” who can restrict her travel.

The apps travel features have been targeted by activists as it makes it difficult for women to leave Saudi Arabia. “Apple and Google have rules against apps that facilitate threats and harassment,” Human Rights Watch was quoted as saying.

“Apps like this one can facilitate human rights abuses, including discrimination against women.”

Amnesty International called on Apple and Google to demand changes to the app so that it can be stopped for being used to harm women.

Yasmine Mohammed, a critic of Saudi Arabia, told Insider that the companies are “facilitating the most archaic misogyny” and help the Saudi government to enforce “gender apartheid”.

(With IANS inputs)