Apple and Google are getting blowback from U.S. human rights activists and lawmakers for carrying an app that lets Saudi men track the whereabouts of their wives and daughters.
The app, called Absher, and available in both app stores in Saudi Arabia, was created by the National Information Center, which is a project of the Saudi Ministry of Interior according to a Saudi government website .
The description of the app in both stores says that with Absher, "you can safely browse your profile or your family members, or [laborers] working for you, and perform a wide range of eServices online."
In Saudi Arabia, women's lives are highly restricted. For example, according to Human Rights Watch, women have always needed permission from a male guardian, usually a father or husband, to leave the country. In the past, paper forms were required prior to travel. The Absher app makes this process a lot more convenient for Saudi men.
"It's really designed with the men in mind," says Rothna Begum, a senior researcher on women's rights at Human Rights Watch. "Of course, it's incredibly demeaning, insulting and humiliating for the women, and downright abusive in many cases, because you're allowing men absolute control over women's movements."