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Apple, Google pushed to release the Saudi app that tracks women



  Apple CEO Tim Cook was recently asked whether the company would keep an app that suppresses Saudi women in their store.
Apple CEO Tim Cook was recently asked if his company wanted to keep an app that suppresses Saudi women in their store.

Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

] Google and Apple are under pressure from human rights groups and an American senator to remove from their stores an app called Absher. The app was created by the Saudi government and includes a feature that helps men monitor and control women under their pre-emption, including wives and unmarried daughters.

Saudi men have this right thanks to the country's repressive law of protection, which mandated every woman to have a male guardian to make critical life decisions on her behalf. That guardian can be father, brother, husband or son, according to Human Rights Watch. So men get the power to approve things as if a woman is searching for a passport, studying abroad, traveling outside the country or getting married. That system was already well in place before Absher's debut, but the program makes controlling women much more effective.

While Absher was developed by the Saudi government and released in 2015, new control is requested. A woman who persecuted asylum recently told her that she was trying to flee the country without being discovered by Absher and her male guardian. In order to travel, women must be allowed through the app. Many can't do it far because the app alerts parents to their dependents every time their addicts use their passport, Insider says.

Now human rights groups, as well as the transmitter Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, urges Apple and Google to remove Absher from their app stores.

"By allowing the app in their respective stores, your businesses make it easier for the Saudi men to control their family members from the convenience of their smart phones and limit their movement," Wyden wrote in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Cook responded weakly when asked about the app during an NPR interview this week. "I haven't heard about it," he said. "But obviously we'll look at it if that's the case."

Google told CNN that the company would "look at it."

Although Google and Apple remove the app from their stores, it won 't solve the crew problem. As columnist Mona Eltahawy pointed out Twitter, the app only "enables sex apartheid in # Saudi Arabia, remembering that is male protection area that is the problem here."

Still, activists believe Apple and Google could send a powerful message to the Saudi government by releasing Absher.

Hala Aldosari, an activist and teacher studying gender in the Arabian Gulf states, told the New York Times : "If the technical companies would say," You're oppressive, "that would mean a lot."

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