Absher is an app that allows men in Saudi Arabia to track women. The app is used by (at least some) men in Saudi Arabia to control where the women in their life can travel. There have been calls for Google to remove Absher from the Google Play store, but Google is ignoring those requests. Apple has also ignored requests to remove the App Store.
Google has declined to remove from its app store a Saudi government app which lets men track women and control where they travel, on the grounds that it meets all their terms and conditions.
Insider has some details about what the Absher app is and what it can be used for. It is a state-run e-service that contains an online expression of Saudi Arabia’s restrictive male-guardianship laws.
Some of what Absher can be used for include: paying a parking fine, registering a newborn baby, or renewing a driver’s license. All of these options are harmless.
Unfortunately, Absher can also be used by Saudi men to specify when and where women are allowed to fly out of the country. Absher allows the men to grant or revoke travel permission with a few clicks. The app will also send an SMS when a woman uses her passport at a border crossing or airport check-in.
Obviously, the Absher app puts Saudi women in danger. The women who need to escape from abusive situations can be tracked by the app. This will lead to even more violence inflicted upon the woman if she is caught before she can leave the country.
I find it extremely troubling that Google and Apple have so little regard for the safety of women. I strongly suspect that if the app was being used to track men – instead of women – that Google and Apple would rush to remove it. Absher should be removed until the app updates to a new version that does not include the ability to track women.