Apple and Google Urged to Remove Saudi App 'Absher' for Tracking Women

Malicious campaign against Absher aimed at disrupting 160 services

Malicious campaign against Absher aimed at disrupting 160 services

"These allegations aim to disable the benefits of more than 160 different procedural services to all members of the society provided by the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabian to the citizens and residents, including women, the elderly, and people with special needs".

Human rights defenders have been urging Apple and Google to remove the Saudi government app "Absher" from its platforms, over claims that it "enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women".

Though Saudi women have gained more rights in the past couple of years, they're still shackled by the guardianship system that, according to Human Rights Watch, requires them to receive a man's approval to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study overseas on a government scholarship, get married or even exit prison. Apple and Google are investigating the Saudi app, according to the Insider website.

Aljazeera reported that United States senator Ron Wyden had written a letter to the CEOs of Apple and Google requesting the companies to stop promoting the app called "Absher", which is a Saudi e-government portal.

Under Saudi law, women must have consent from a husband or immediate male relative to renew passports or leave the country.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook told U.S. National Public Radio last week he had not heard of the app, but would "take a look at it".

The ministry categorically rejected such attempts to politicize the use of any instruments of technology that entail the legitimate rights of users, the source said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

"The Ministry strongly condemns the systematic campaign aimed at questioning the goal of (Abshar) services", the statement said.

The CIA previously concluded the Saudi operation was probably directed by the powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), but the White House has sidestepped that finding amind strenuous denials by Riyadh, a key USA ally.

Critics and human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have urged Apple and Google to review the app.

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