Google Says No To Removing The Saudi App That Lets Men Track Women

The Logical Indian Crew

March 5th, 2019 / 6:18 PM

In a controversial move, Tech Giant Google Google has refused to remove a Saudi Government app from its Play Store, which tracks and controls women’s whereabouts, stating that the app does not violate the terms and conditions on its platform, reported NDTV.

According to a report in the Business Insider, the decision was communicated to the office of Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, who along with 13 other members of Congress demanded that the app should be removed from both Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Google reviewed the app, “Absher” which has been developed for the Saudi Ministry of Interior’s website allowing the Saudi users to connect with the government. It offers a host of e-services like reporting crimes, registering a birth, or renewing a driving license. However, it also offers a feature that allows Saudi male guardian to record their wives, children, and servants as ‘dependents’ and get the authority to grant or withdraw travel permission for the dependents they have social jurisdiction over. Besides, the app provides a service to set up messaging alerts to intimate when the dependents use their passports for travel. Thus “restricting the free movement of Saudi women and migrant workers”. In Saudi Arabia, a woman needs the permission of her legal guardian to leave the country. 

On February 21, Representative Speier and 13 other representatives from Congress wrote to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook to remove the app from their respective platforms, giving a deadline of seven days to reason the hosting of the app on their app stores.

The Democratic lawmakers including Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Katherine Clark with Speier demanded a ban on the app stating in their letter that the hosting of such an app on their platforms clearly expresses that both the companies are, “accomplices in the oppression of Saudi Arabian women” and “twenty-first century innovations should not perpetuate sixteenth century tyranny.”

Speier called Google’s decision “deeply unsatisfactory”. While Apple is still reviewing and yet to announce its decision. Senator Ron Wyden in his letter has demanded the same and has accused Apple of ‘stalling’ decision.

International Non-governmental Organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International focusing towards protecting human right have also expressed concern over the accessibility to the app on both the platforms with over a million downloads, jeopardising the lives of the vulnerable in Saudi Arabia.

The Logical Indian Take

Saudi Arabia is a regressive and a misogynist country. Women are not allowed to take many decisions in Saudi Arabia without the permission of a male relative, be it marriage or travel. Somewhere, Google’s refusal to remove the app is concerning and add into the patriarchy that is being practised there.

Read: For The First Time, Women To Legally Drive In Saudi Arabia, 10 Driving Licenses Issued


Written by : Palak Agrawal (Intern)

Edited by : Bharat Nayak

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