US Senator demands Apple & Google pull app used by Saudis to oppress women

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 12
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has issued a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, calling on the pair to pull an app used to track the movements of Saudi women.

Absher


"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," Sen. Wyden wrote in part of the letter. "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."

The app, Absher, is operated by the Saudi government and has innocuous purposes like paying parking fines, but can also be used to monitor and limit the travel activity of wives and daughters under a man's guardianship, even canceling those permissions entirely. Although Saudi Arabia has loosened some of its old policies toward women -- for instance by letting them drive -- the country remains very patriarchal and governed under Wahhabism, a strict fundamentalist sect of Islam.

New: US Senator @RonWyden writes to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google boss Sundar Pichai calling on them to "immediately remove" the "abhorrent" Absher app. pic.twitter.com/sUH4tmCsfq

-- Jake Kanter (@Jake_Kanter)


Groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have expressed concern about Apple and Google's continued hosting of the app. Human Rights Watch in particular has suggested that the companies could simply ask Saudi Arabia to remove guardianship options and resubmit.

Apple has yet to publicly comment on the matter, but the company is often an outspoken proponent of human rights, including those concerning gender and race. It has repeatedly shut down attempts to set up a human rights committee, however, and has been accused of maintaining double standards, turning a blind eye to abuses in the Middle East and China in order to preserve its business interests.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,710member
    Global tech companies getting caught between the rock and a hard place of global politics. I wonder if Senator Wyden is willing to compensate Google and Apple for their loss of business should they be banned in Saudi Arabia because of his demands. What about Chinese and Russian demands for customer data to be stored in-country? Do you really think Huawei and Samsung would have any misgivings taking over the Saudi Arabian smartphone market because Apple is forced out? 
    longpathRoger_Fingassteven n.watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 26
    Lots of luck there. 
    edited February 12 watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 26
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,957member
    lkrupp said:
    Global tech companies getting caught between the rock and a hard place of global politics. I wonder if Senator Wyden is willing to compensate Google and Apple for their loss of business should they be banned in Saudi Arabia because of his demands. What about Chinese and Russian demands for customer data to be stored in-country? Do you really think Huawei and Samsung would have any misgivings taking over the Saudi Arabian smartphone market because Apple is forced out? 
    I guess it depends. If they are going to go down the road of caring about ethics (as they seem to in some cases), then it shouldn't be a matter of 'how much do good ethics impact our bottom line.' You do it because it's the right thing to do, not because it makes the most money.

    On the other hand, I'd rather see a company getting into ethics have some kind of grounding and consistency. I haven't seen that from Apple, so maybe better they just don't play the game.
    Roger_Fingasmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 4 of 26
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,094member
    So not tolerant of other people’s cultures and beliefs then.  If the App was available on the US stores then sure but to pull from local App Stores is a disgrace.

    Still, I suppose inflicting our beliefs on others with app censorship is better than cruise missiles, what did our votes endorse and our tax dollars pay for?
    steven n.
  • Reply 5 of 26
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,094member
    cgWerks said:
    lkrupp said:
    Global tech companies getting caught between the rock and a hard place of global politics. I wonder if Senator Wyden is willing to compensate Google and Apple for their loss of business should they be banned in Saudi Arabia because of his demands. What about Chinese and Russian demands for customer data to be stored in-country? Do you really think Huawei and Samsung would have any misgivings taking over the Saudi Arabian smartphone market because Apple is forced out? 
    I guess it depends. If they are going to go down the road of caring about ethics (as they seem to in some cases), then it shouldn't be a matter of 'how much do good ethics impact our bottom line.' You do it because it's the right thing to do, not because it makes the most money.

    On the other hand, I'd rather see a company getting into ethics have some kind of grounding and consistency. I haven't seen that from Apple, so maybe better they just don't play the game.
    Those are our ethics not theirs.  Why should US companies be used as the pawns of colonisation?
  • Reply 6 of 26
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,710member
    mcdave said:
    cgWerks said:
    lkrupp said:
    Global tech companies getting caught between the rock and a hard place of global politics. I wonder if Senator Wyden is willing to compensate Google and Apple for their loss of business should they be banned in Saudi Arabia because of his demands. What about Chinese and Russian demands for customer data to be stored in-country? Do you really think Huawei and Samsung would have any misgivings taking over the Saudi Arabian smartphone market because Apple is forced out? 
    I guess it depends. If they are going to go down the road of caring about ethics (as they seem to in some cases), then it shouldn't be a matter of 'how much do good ethics impact our bottom line.' You do it because it's the right thing to do, not because it makes the most money.

    On the other hand, I'd rather see a company getting into ethics have some kind of grounding and consistency. I haven't seen that from Apple, so maybe better they just don't play the game.
    Those are our ethics not theirs.  Why should US companies be used as the pawns of colonisation?
    Well, it’s not a matter of Western beliefs, culture and ethics. It’s a matter of human rights. Would you make the same comment if it were slavery that the Saudis were protecting instead of the oppression of women?  Hey, it’s their culture so let ‘em have slaves if they want? Who are we to object?
    edited February 12 Roger_Fingaszoetmbk2kwcgWerksmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 26
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,558member
    Regardless of the merits of this app (or not), this is a politician “directing” a private entity to do something about a third party’s product. In another country no less. Fascist.
    edited February 12 steven n.SpamSandwich
  • Reply 8 of 26
    Roger_FingasRoger_Fingas Posts: 120member, editor
    entropys said:
    Regardless of the merits of this app (or not), this is a politician “directing” a private entity to do something about a third party’s product. In another country no less. Fascist.
    Please be careful about throwing around the fascist label in the forums.

    This isn't an order, we should note - it's just a plea, which Wyden or any other person is entitled to.
    zoetmbMplsPwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 26
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,102member
    lkrupp said:
    mcdave said:
    cgWerks said:
    lkrupp said:
    Global tech companies getting caught between the rock and a hard place of global politics. I wonder if Senator Wyden is willing to compensate Google and Apple for their loss of business should they be banned in Saudi Arabia because of his demands. What about Chinese and Russian demands for customer data to be stored in-country? Do you really think Huawei and Samsung would have any misgivings taking over the Saudi Arabian smartphone market because Apple is forced out? 
    I guess it depends. If they are going to go down the road of caring about ethics (as they seem to in some cases), then it shouldn't be a matter of 'how much do good ethics impact our bottom line.' You do it because it's the right thing to do, not because it makes the most money.

    On the other hand, I'd rather see a company getting into ethics have some kind of grounding and consistency. I haven't seen that from Apple, so maybe better they just don't play the game.
    Those are our ethics not theirs.  Why should US companies be used as the pawns of colonisation?
    Well, it’s not a matter of Western beliefs, culture and ethics. It’s a matter of human rights. Would you make the same comment if it were slavery that the Saudis were protecting instead of the oppression of women?  Hey, it’s their culture so let ‘em have slaves if they want? Who are we to object?
    No, it truly is a matter of western beliefs and ethics. Lots of research on the topic. And we Antony talking about mass murder, slavery or mass beheadings. 
  • Reply 10 of 26
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,710member
    steven n. said:
    lkrupp said:
    mcdave said:
    cgWerks said:
    lkrupp said:
    Global tech companies getting caught between the rock and a hard place of global politics. I wonder if Senator Wyden is willing to compensate Google and Apple for their loss of business should they be banned in Saudi Arabia because of his demands. What about Chinese and Russian demands for customer data to be stored in-country? Do you really think Huawei and Samsung would have any misgivings taking over the Saudi Arabian smartphone market because Apple is forced out? 
    I guess it depends. If they are going to go down the road of caring about ethics (as they seem to in some cases), then it shouldn't be a matter of 'how much do good ethics impact our bottom line.' You do it because it's the right thing to do, not because it makes the most money.

    On the other hand, I'd rather see a company getting into ethics have some kind of grounding and consistency. I haven't seen that from Apple, so maybe better they just don't play the game.
    Those are our ethics not theirs.  Why should US companies be used as the pawns of colonisation?
    Well, it’s not a matter of Western beliefs, culture and ethics. It’s a matter of human rights. Would you make the same comment if it were slavery that the Saudis were protecting instead of the oppression of women?  Hey, it’s their culture so let ‘em have slaves if they want? Who are we to object?
    No, it truly is a matter of western beliefs and ethics. Lots of research on the topic. And we Antony talking about mass murder, slavery or mass beheadings. 
    Okay, so the oppression of women is fine then because it’s their culture to oppress to women and treat them like property. Got it.
    mcdavebeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 11 of 26
    lkrupp said:
    Well, it’s not a matter of Western beliefs, culture and ethics. It’s a matter of human rights. Would you make the same comment if it were slavery that the Saudis were protecting instead of the oppression of women?  Hey, it’s their culture so let ‘em have slaves if they want? Who are we to object?
    Human rights are a fiction. People only have the rights that their community has agreed to, you can't impose them from outside.
  • Reply 12 of 26
    If this app affected US citizens then I would agree with the Senator. However, this time I think he is overstepping our jurisdiction.  
    mcdavesteven n.
  • Reply 13 of 26
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,649member
    onepotato said:
    lkrupp said:
    Well, it’s not a matter of Western beliefs, culture and ethics. It’s a matter of human rights. Would you make the same comment if it were slavery that the Saudis were protecting instead of the oppression of women?  Hey, it’s their culture so let ‘em have slaves if they want? Who are we to object?
    Human rights are a fiction. People only have the rights that their community has agreed to, you can't impose them from outside.
    A few times outside pressure can and will make a difference.   I think the divestiture movement against Apartheid in South America is the best example.

    But that is not always the case.   I remember that one of the arguments for investing in China was that political freedom would follow after economic freedom and prosperity.   I don’t think that had really been the case. 
    China even seems to be tightening the nose in Hong Kong if my understanding isn’t out dated.

    As long as the world economy really runs on Petroleum products the west will have little influence with Saudi Arabia.   That’s why I support Electric Vehicles - no more wars for oil.
  • Reply 14 of 26
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,094member
    lkrupp said:
    mcdave said:
    cgWerks said:
    lkrupp said:
    Global tech companies getting caught between the rock and a hard place of global politics. I wonder if Senator Wyden is willing to compensate Google and Apple for their loss of business should they be banned in Saudi Arabia because of his demands. What about Chinese and Russian demands for customer data to be stored in-country? Do you really think Huawei and Samsung would have any misgivings taking over the Saudi Arabian smartphone market because Apple is forced out? 
    I guess it depends. If they are going to go down the road of caring about ethics (as they seem to in some cases), then it shouldn't be a matter of 'how much do good ethics impact our bottom line.' You do it because it's the right thing to do, not because it makes the most money.

    On the other hand, I'd rather see a company getting into ethics have some kind of grounding and consistency. I haven't seen that from Apple, so maybe better they just don't play the game.
    Those are our ethics not theirs.  Why should US companies be used as the pawns of colonisation?
    Well, it’s not a matter of Western beliefs, culture and ethics. It’s a matter of human rights. Would you make the same comment if it were slavery that the Saudis were protecting instead of the oppression of women?  Hey, it’s their culture so let ‘em have slaves if they want? Who are we to object?
    You mean Western interpretation of Human Rights (slavery is what we endorse to get our iPhones built cheaper).  We can object, even use it to spin up some local propaganda but it’s our right to intervene that I’m questioning.
    As for treating women badly; heavy ordnance & .50 calibre rounds treat them far worse.  Our track record in the region is pretty special.  With any luck their bigotry kept female fatalities below the halfway mark of 750,000.
  • Reply 15 of 26
    This is a classic example of the media reporting part of the story.  If you go to the Absher website it is a portal to do business with the government.  While one of those services are the "Guardianship" services, there are other services like registering your car, renewing your passport, and making appointments with government officials for offline services.  This is probably why Apple and Google approved it, they reasonably saw it as no different as IRS2GO by the US Federal Government (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/irs2go/id414113282?mt=8).  
     
    Do not read this as support for "Guardianship" services, just a reminder that before we go crucifying someone lets at least do a little fact-finding for ourselves to get more than one side of the story.
    beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 16 of 26
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,112member
    How is this different from other geo-fencing apps available in the US? It seems like it's just a different use for the same technology.
  • Reply 17 of 26
    entropys said:
    Regardless of the merits of this app (or not), this is a politician “directing” a private entity to do something about a third party’s product. In another country no less. Fascist.
    Pretty much. Screw him. This is Apple’s decision.
    designr
  • Reply 18 of 26
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,957member
    mcdave said:
    So not tolerant of other people’s cultures and beliefs then.  If the App was available on the US stores then sure but to pull from local App Stores is a disgrace.
    Still, I suppose inflicting our beliefs on others with app censorship is better than cruise missiles, what did our votes endorse and our tax dollars pay for?
    Well, we shouldn't be tolerant of other's beliefs and cultures if they are indeed immoral. The problem here seems to be between subjective and objective morality. Unfortunately, most of our culture (in the West) is shifting towards pragmatism at best, and subjectivism when convenient. Neither of those are really good ethical systems.

    Yes, I suppose app censorship is better than cruise missiles (or even overthrowing 'evil dictators' to promote 'democracy'... which we do a BUNCH of), but that doesn't make it right, or consistent.

    mcdave said:
    Those are our ethics not theirs.  Why should US companies be used as the pawns of colonisation?
    I think Lkrupp responded pretty well already. This was also the defense the soldiers of a certain WWII country used to justify their atrocities. Which makes me wonder if there were ever a repeat of such a thing, if the response would be the same in todays' ethical subjectivism. Pretty sad.

    onepotato said:
    Human rights are a fiction. People only have the rights that their community has agreed to, you can't impose them from outside.
    Gosh, you/we'd better hope not. The problem is that we've just done away with the grounding for them. Now we've just got some pieces of paper in some countries and internationally that we hope stand up. But, you're correct that on certain worldviews, they are mostly fiction. But, ultimately the problem is with those worldviews.

    mcdave said:
    ... Our track record in the region is pretty special.  ...
    I seem to recall some saying... 'two wrongs don't make a right'.

    ajminnj said:
    ... While one of those services are the "Guardianship" services, there are other services like registering your car, renewing your passport, and making appointments with government officials for offline services.  This is probably why Apple and Google approved it, they reasonably saw it as no different as IRS2GO by the US Federal Government ...
    So, if IRS2GO bundled lots of other services with a slave-owner service, then the whole thing would be fine? Maybe there's more to the story, but the aspect of it in focus seems problematic.
  • Reply 19 of 26
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,102member
    lkrupp said:
    steven n. said:
    lkrupp said:
    mcdave said:
    cgWerks said:
    lkrupp said:
    Global tech companies getting caught between the rock and a hard place of global politics. I wonder if Senator Wyden is willing to compensate Google and Apple for their loss of business should they be banned in Saudi Arabia because of his demands. What about Chinese and Russian demands for customer data to be stored in-country? Do you really think Huawei and Samsung would have any misgivings taking over the Saudi Arabian smartphone market because Apple is forced out? 
    I guess it depends. If they are going to go down the road of caring about ethics (as they seem to in some cases), then it shouldn't be a matter of 'how much do good ethics impact our bottom line.' You do it because it's the right thing to do, not because it makes the most money.

    On the other hand, I'd rather see a company getting into ethics have some kind of grounding and consistency. I haven't seen that from Apple, so maybe better they just don't play the game.
    Those are our ethics not theirs.  Why should US companies be used as the pawns of colonisation?
    Well, it’s not a matter of Western beliefs, culture and ethics. It’s a matter of human rights. Would you make the same comment if it were slavery that the Saudis were protecting instead of the oppression of women?  Hey, it’s their culture so let ‘em have slaves if they want? Who are we to object?
    No, it truly is a matter of western beliefs and ethics. Lots of research on the topic. And we Antony talking about mass murder, slavery or mass beheadings. 
    Okay, so the oppression of women is fine then because it’s their culture to oppress to women and treat them like property. Got it.
    Their mortality and violent crimes against women are lower than we have in the U.S.  It is in no way, a system I would be happy to live under but I don’t think tyrannical enforcement of our ethical codes of conduct will turn out the way you hope.
  • Reply 20 of 26
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,957member
    steven n. said:
    Their mortality and violent crimes against women are lower than we have in the U.S.  It is in no way, a system I would be happy to live under but I don’t think tyrannical enforcement of our ethical codes of conduct will turn out the way you hope.
    Probably a matter of reporting, as I highly doubt that.
    That said, I don't think the way the USA is falling (and much of the rest of the 'West') it will be too long before there is a convergence.
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