Somehow, Google is totally okay with this Saudi government app that lets men restrict the movements of their wives and female domestic workers

Despite condemnation and calls by Amnesty International and a number of US politicians to remove the app from its Play store, Google has determined that Absher – a Saudi state-operated mobile app that can be used to monitor and send text updates about women’s locations – doesn’t violate its policies, which apparently don’t include a clause limiting medieval totalitarian persecution.

Besides dreary bureaucratic admin services like driver’s licence renewals, Absher also features some much more questionable services according to the country’s controversial male guardianship laws, which more or less reduce those women to the property of their husbands, fathers, brothers, or uncles. The app will notify a man if his wife or female domestic worker is at an airport, for example, so he can revoke her travel permissions. In theory, the man could also use the app to permit those travel permissions, but keep in mind that this is a regime frequently accused of forced marriages and sexual slavery, and the murder of women who don’t comply.

California Democratic rep Jackie Speier and other members of the US Congress asked Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook to drop Absher from their respective app stores, citing what should be otherwise obvious contraventions of morality and human decency.

The ingenuity of American technology companies should not be perverted to violate the human rights of Saudi women. Twenty first century innovations should not perpetuate sixteenth century tyranny. 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.

In response, the Saudi government has asserted its “rejection of the attempts to politicize the systematic use of technical instruments which represent legitimate rights to the users”, like “legitimate rights” even apply to women, and the attempt to “disable the benefits of more than 160 different procedural services to all members of the society”, like some of those services can’t simply be discontinued or whatever as a reasonable compromise.

Apple hasn’t confirmed its intentions, but Google has declined to do so. Bad Google. Bad.

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