Two Saudi sisters who fled the country for the U.S. have renewed attempts to get Apple and Google to delete an “inhuman” tracking app from the App Store. The app, called Absher, allows men to receive alerts about the whereabouts of wives or daughters.
Apple previously said that it was looking into the app to see if concerns were warranted. However, it still remains available in the Saudi version of both the Apple and Google app stores.
Sisters Maha and Wafa al-Subaie fled Saudi Arabia to go to Georgia in the U.S. They are currently seeking asylum. “[The app] gives men control over women,” Wafa told Reuters. “They have to remove it,” she continued, referring to Google and Apple.
The sisters are the latest people to join the growing number of individuals concerned about the app. Human rights groups and U.S. and European politicians have also spoken out against it. On Wednesday, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said that she has asked tech companies “tough questions” about apps like Absher.
A controversial Saudi government app
Absher is principally a Saudi government app that lets users onduct municipal business, such as paying traffic fines. However, among its features is the ability for men to be alerted about the location of wives and daughters. In some cases, it has been used to keep women from traveling outside the country.
Saudi law requires every woman to have a male legal guardian. The app features fields where a guardian can enter a woman’s name, passport number, the number of trips they can take, and for how long.
The initial wave of publicity about the Absher app came in February. At the time, Senator Ron Wyden wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google boss Sundar Pichai asking them to “immediately remove” the app. Both companies said that they would examine it before making a move. However, nothing has been publicly said since then.