US Senator Ron Wyden on Monday wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google’s Sundar Pichai to “immediately remove” the “abhorrent” Absher app that allows men to surveil the movement of women in Saudi Arabia. In the letter, Wyden asked Apple and Google to completely remove the Absher app from Apple App Store and Google Play Store, respectively, as it allows the Saudi men to monitor their wives or daughters. The motive behind curbing the app is to stand against the nasty patriarchal thinking of these Saudi men.
Absher App works like an e-government portal for the Saudi Interior Ministry to help Saudi citizens either get a passport, vehicle registration, to name a few. However, according to human rights advocates, the app also clears the way for Saudi Arabia’s patriarchal guardianship system. According to the law, Saudi women cannot travel anywhere without seeking permission from their guardian (husband/brother/father).
The letter was shared by Jake Kanter, executive editor of Business Insider. In the letter, Wyden said, “It is hardly news that the Saudi monarchy seeks to restrict and repress Saudi women, but American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government’s patriarchy.” He further elaborated the reason behind his appeal, “By permitting the app in your respective stores, your companies are making it easier for Saudi men to control their family members from the convenience of their smartphones and restrict their movement. This flies in the face of the type of society you both claim to support and defend.”
Human rights groups have also called on Apple and Google to consider the app’s presence on their respective app stores, as it may help fuel up gender discrimination and abuse in the country. It has also particularly asked the tech giants to suggest Saudi Arabia remove guardianship options from the app.