Members of congress demand Apple take down Saudi Absher app

Posted:
in iOS edited February 25
Members of Congress have written to Apple and Google to demand the removal of the controversial Saudi Arabia government Absher app, with the companies accused of being "accomplices in the oppression of Saudi Arabian women" by offering it for download.




The Absher app has received increased criticism in recent weeks, due to its nature of curtailing the rights of women to travel and move freely in and out of Saudi Arabia. Despite criticism about the app, it is still available to download from the App Store and from Google Play, prompting increased pressure from members of Congress.

A group of 14 Democrat lawmakers have written to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Thursday about the app, reports Business Insider. Calling the app a "tracking device," the members of Congress claim the app is "used to prevent the free movement of Saudi women."

"Twenty first century innovations should not perpetuate sixteenth century tyranny," the letter states. "Keeping this application in your stores allows your companies and your American employees to be accomplices in the oppression of Saudi Arabian women and migrant workers."

The letter asks for both Apple and Google to remove Absher from each of their respective app stores, by February 28. The demand's deadline is not enforceable.

Reporting about Absher earlier in February revealed the app had the ability for men to dictate the travel plans of women under their guardianship, as according to the country's laws. The app has options to allow women to travel via specific airports and for limited durations, and how many journeys a woman could take.

More controversially, the app includes the ability for a male guardian to cancel permissions to travel at all, and for text alerts to be dispatches when specific passports are attempted to be used at ports and airports.

The app has already received criticism from campaign groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, suggesting the app helps "facilitate human rights abuses, including discrimination against women."

Senator Ron Wyden wrote a separate letter to Cook and Pichai on February 12, issuing his own plea to have the app pulled. "It is hardly news that the Saudi monarchy seeks to restrict and repress Saudi women," wrote Wyden, "but American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government's patriarchy."

On February 13, Cook promised Apple would "take a look" at the app.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    The app is worthy of criticism, but this request has the stench of politics on it.

    Our “leaders” didn’t (and don’t) give a damn when women are imprisoned and killed in Saudi Arabia, when fighting (peacefully) for equality.

    Funny how this shows up after the Crown Prince gets a warm welcome on his Asia tour... like a gentle reminder not to stray.

    Is this a reminder that 
    Saudi Arabia and the USA are allies of convenience? Cough, couch... Saddam Hussein didn’t so when the alliance turned.  All of a sudden, those “crimes against humanity” were of vital importance.




    leighc-sfochiageorgie01hmurchisondesignr
  • Reply 2 of 21
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,118member
    Sorry, but why do members of Congress give a shit about an app being available in Saudi Arabia? Do they have that much free time, or zero local issues to deal with? This is all some cheap, bullshit, no risk PR, and they don't deserve a shred of credit for it. This app has zero effect on Saudi Arabia's internal laws, culture, and politics either way. 
    pujones1n2itivguyleighc-sfoLoneStar88stompymaciekskontaktgeorgie01jbdragondesignrravnorodom
  • Reply 3 of 21
    The ongoing problem with US politicians. It’s not like Flint, MI has clean water to drink, or there are homeless, or that farmers are suffering, or that our education needs modernization, or that healthcare costs should drastically go down, or updating infrastructure, or…, or… 😒
    leighc-sfoLoneStar881STnTENDERBITSchiamaciekskontaktmagman1979beowulfschmidturaharawatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 21
    n2itivguy said:
    The ongoing problem with US politicians. It’s not like Flint, MI has clean water to drink, or there are homeless, or that farmers are suffering, or that our education needs modernization, or that healthcare costs should drastically go down, or updating infrastructure, or…, or… ߘ⦬t;/div>
    Bud, you're pointing out issues they would have to actually work to solve.  They're not going to get behind any of that.  They are pointing out an issue that someone else (Apple and Google) would have to work to solve, BUT they can take ancillary credit for because "we shed a light on the issue".   So of course they are going to get behind this.

    Politics aside, I think Apple and Google should get rid of the app.  It's pretty terrible.  But the Saudi's... they spend money.  It will be interesting to see what each company does and what their reasoning will be.
    edited February 25 entropysbeowulfschmidturahara
  • Reply 5 of 21
    jimh2jimh2 Posts: 129member
    The US has no business telling other countries what is right and wrong. Their society and their rules. As an earlier poster said we have enough problems to fix here before pursuing the world's problems. The one that really gets me is the US has meddled in elections all over the world (mainly South and Central America), but then are shocked that Russia might have meddled with it's election(s). 
    maciekskontaktwatto_cobraSpamSandwich
  • Reply 6 of 21
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,527member
    If our politician are really worried about this apps ability to track someone, there are number of apps you can install on anyone phone to track them, there is kiddy tracking apps and if you turn on parental control you can keep your kids from removing it. Let not forget about find my friends that allows you to track someone as well. The politicians should be asking Apple to remove the tracking feature all together. What about the Telco selling our tracking information to third parts, our government seem to be okay with that as well.

    I wish our politician spent more time worrying about what is going on inside our owe boarders and get our own house in order before they spent time worrying about what other people are doing in their own houses.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 21
    Let's skip politics. Some people never learn how to solve some global issues. Activism does not help. Constructive discussion and finding compromise is the only way.
  • Reply 8 of 21
    +1 everyone’s response so far. Just grandstanding on the part of politicians who are trying to look good while doing very little.

    We don’t even know the extent of things on a practical level, not to mention that there are many other issues that should be much higher priority to American than policing the morals and values of other countries, especially when things we might perceive as actual problems are probably infrequent and minor.
  • Reply 9 of 21
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,078member
    Apple has to follow the laws of this country as Apple has to follow the laws of every other country they sell products in. I sure don't agree with everything the U.S. politicians want to do. I hope things change for the better everywhere in the world. Woman should have the same rights as Men. Things are changing for the better. That they can even drive now is a plus. As the world gets smaller because of the Internet. People see how things could be, change can and does happen. The U.S trying to force things just makes things worse. It then becomes the U.S. meddling in their businesses. That just turns them all against us. It doesn't fix the issues.
  • Reply 10 of 21
    -1 to all responses so far. What is wrong with you people?
    magman1979
  • Reply 11 of 21
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,129member
    "Twenty first century innovations should not perpetuate sixteenth century tyranny," - does anyone want to point out that our own system of tyrannical cognitive exploitation is a Greco-Roman rehash from 500BC?
  • Reply 12 of 21
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,648member
    At last the age of cultural equivalency is over! These worthy politicians finally realise that western civilisation has something of value to the world!

    Why, they are the very modern day expression of  Sir Charles Napier, expressing their views on the modern version of Sati!

    Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.

    Eh, what?

    edited February 25
  • Reply 13 of 21
    How about focusing on saving women from the abuses of men right here in the USA?
  • Reply 14 of 21
    Why has Apple not addressed this already?  It should not take anyone else bringing it up.  And yes they should stand up to this as they are a global company who promotes human rights.
  • Reply 15 of 21
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,296member
    Aside from how it's being used, is what this app does any different from other geofencing apps?
  • Reply 16 of 21
    jbdragon said:
    Apple has to follow the laws of this country as Apple has to follow the laws of every other country they sell products in. I sure don't agree with everything the U.S. politicians want to do. I hope things change for the better everywhere in the world. Woman should have the same rights as Men. Things are changing for the better. That they can even drive now is a plus. As the world gets smaller because of the Internet. People see how things could be, change can and does happen. The U.S trying to force things just makes things worse. It then becomes the U.S. meddling in their businesses. That just turns them all against us. It doesn't fix the issues.
    Agreed.....what the heek are this stupid politicians sticking thier head where it doesn’t belong....take care of problems here at home you bosos....
  • Reply 17 of 21
    Some of us recall racial apartheid in South Africa. Oppression, abuse and murder was so bad the international community reacted strongly and demanded change.

    Saudi is similar, but it's gender not race. And it's bad, widespread accounts of abuse oppression and murder. That's why outsiders are intervening--it's that bad. 

    Driving a car must be nice for Saudi women--but only if their 'guardians' let them leave the house.

    Some Saudi women are prisoners in their own homes, perfectly legal. If a woman doesn't behave to her guardian's liking he can throw her in a 'care home' (spelled prison) where she may remain indefinitely.

    If a guardian is loving and civilized, a woman under his thumb has freedom of movement. If he's a tyrant, she has absolutely no recourse.

    Her only option is to flee the country. And ABSHER app enables her abuser to prevent her escape. Suicide for Saudi women is common. Depression is rampant. What's happening to women in Saudi is on par with racial apartheid of South Africa. That is why outsiders are attempting to intervene. 

    See #SaudiWomenSpeak for first-hand accounts. 
  • Reply 18 of 21
    Some of us recall racial apartheid in South Africa. Oppression, abuse and murder was so bad the international community reacted strongly and demanded change.

    ...and look what happened. Zimbabwe 2.0. It's an economic disaster waiting to happen, with an inconvenient genocide we'd rather not talk about.
  • Reply 19 of 21
    Compassionate PersonCompassionate Person Posts: 3unconfirmed, member
    No.
    edited February 28
  • Reply 20 of 21
    Compassionate PersonCompassionate Person Posts: 3unconfirmed, member
    You're all incorrect. US companies have an ethical responsibilities to promote democratic practises and principles . Its really not such a big thing to do! Our friend Rahaf Mohammed in Canada wouldn't have been able to escape without Western allies. Why should we declare a war on women by facilitating extremist beliefs and practises? So creating a new app for a "slave trade" is okay? At what point do we exercise moral courage, and say, enough is enough? If we don't stand up for these women who are being abused and exploited, who will?
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