In recent weeks, Apple and Google have found themselves surrounded by NGOs and politicians who have taken a position on Absher, an Saudi Arabian government app that, among other features, allows men to track Saudi women and impeam them even to leave the country.
Now the pressure on Apple and Google CEOs (Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai) has increased after 14 members of Congress write to executives demanding that they stop hosting the app in their respective app stores, as the Business insider.
According to the representatives, by continuing to make the application available, companies become “complicit in Saudi Arabia's oppression of women”. In the letter, congressmen also state that the "innovations of the 21st century should not perpetuate the tyranny of the 16th century".
In addition to crimes against the women's movement and the freedom of Saudi women themselves, politicians have also highlighted another function of the app which allows entrepreneurs to manage the migrant workers they employ. For them, the app “restricts the movement of migrant workers from Saudi Arabia”.
In addition to easing the damage to human rights of Saudi women, the app allows Saudi men to restrict the movements of migrant workers who work for them. Human Rights Watch has documented the abuse and exploitation of migrant domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, some of which result in forced labor, trafficking or similar slave conditions. With just a few taps on an app offered at their company's app stores, a Saudi man can exercise almost complete control over the livelihoods of these vulnerable migrant workers.
The letter asks Apple and Google to remove the Absher app from their respective app stores by next Thursday (2/28). As we commented, both Ma and Google have already taken a stand, saying that they would look into whether the app in question violates the App Store / Google Play rules / guidelines.