Google refuses to remove controversial Saudi app from store

The Absher app has been heavily criticised by a number of American politicians
Google refuses to remove controversial Saudi app from store
The app – designed as a way for Saudi nationals to interact with the state - has come under intense scrutiny for allowing men to track women, grant and rescind travel permission and set up alerts when women use their passports.
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Wed 06 Mar 2019 11:32 AM

Google will not remove the controversial ‘Absher’ app from its Google Play app store, according to media reports.

The app – designed as a way for Saudi nationals to interact with the state - has come under intense scrutiny for allowing men to track women, grant and rescind travel permission and set up alerts when women use their passports.

In February, 14 members of the US Congress wrote to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook demanding that the app be removed.

According to media reports, Google has told California Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s office that the app does not violate any of the company’s policies and will not be removed.

Speier’s office said that Apple has yet to make a decision regarding the app.

“The responses received so far from Apple and Google are unsatisfactory,” Speier said in a statement. “As of today, the Absher app remains available in both the Apple App store and the Google Play store, even though they can easily remove it. Not only do they have the capability to take action, they have done so previously.”

“Facilitating the detention of women seeking asylum and fleeing abuse and control unequivocally causes harm,” she added. “To say I’m disappointed in their failure to show a sustained commitment to human rights is an understatement. I will be following up on this issue with my colleagues.”

Launched by Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry in 2015, the Absher app provides residents in the kingdom with access to more than 150 government services and services.

Over 11.5 million people use the app, according to Saudi officials.

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