- Joshua Roberts/Reuters
- US Senator Ron Wyden has written to Apple and Google demanding they remove a controversial Saudi government app from their app stores.
- Wyden told Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai that the app enables “abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
- INSIDER reported extensively how Absher, an online service, lets men control where women travel, and offers alerts when they use their passports to leave the country.
- The app version has been downloaded more than one million times, and has been condemned by human rights activists.
- Neither Apple nor Google has responded to INSIDER’s requests for comment.
- Scroll down to read Wyden’s letter in full.
A US Senator has written to Apple and Google’s CEOs to demand that they “immediately remove” a Saudi government app from their app stores which allows men to monitor and control the movements of women.
On Monday, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote to Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, and said hosting the app, called Absher, “flies in the face of the type of society you both claim to support and defend.”
He said: “American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government’s patriarchy,” and called the Saudi system of control over women “abhorrent.”
Wyden was responding two reports by INSIDER on Absher.
Here is the full text of the letter
Dear Mr. Cook and Mr. Pichai:
I write to ask that you immediately remove from your app stores the Saudi government’s Absher app, which enables Saudi men to track and control the movements of Saudi women.
The Saudi Ministry of Interior’s National Information Center operates Absher, an online e-portal through which Saudi citizens can interact with their government. However, according to media reports, Saudi men can also use Absher to surveil and track women under their “guardianship,” such as their wives and unmarried daughters.
Saudi men can also reportedly use Absher to receive real-time text message alerts every time these women enter or leave the country or to prevent these women from leaving the country.
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. 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.
To that end, I ask that you take immediate action to prevent your technical infrastructure, including your app stores, from being used by the Saudi government to enable the abhorrent surveillance and control of women. Your employees and your customers expect better, as do millions and millions of Americans who support America’s promotion of basic rights and dignity around the world.
Sincerely, Ron Wyden United States Senator
INSIDER has contacted Apple and Google repeatedly about Absher, and again since the publication of Wyden’s letter. Neither company has responded.