Recently, Google and Apple have been receiving condemn pressure that came from the American Senator, 14 members, and rights groups. They want to get rid of the government app that allows women travel arrangements to be controlled by the Saudi men.  Google and Apple were apparently, held responsible for promoting gender discrimination. 

Reportedly, the issue came out four months after reporters from INSIDER reported how the Saudi Absher App enables, empowers men to restrict and track women in the kingdom that has come under increased scrutiny in the last one week.  The app is said to have brought too much-criticized guardianship system that oppresses women in today’s digital age.

In the Saudi kingdom, there are a “guardianship laws” that give the Saudi women a legal status whereby every woman despite the age difference will require a male guardian preferably a husband or a father. In the event the above is not present, a brother or a son can stand on their behalf. The role of the male guardian is to permit the female to obtain a passport, undergo a medical procedure, as well as give her hand in marriage. 

In the year 2015, was when the Saudi government launched the app that was referred to as Absher.  Absher allows men who serve as guardians the opportunity to keep track of the whereabouts of the women under their guardianship.  Therefore, men can manage their travels by accepting or denying them permits to access any airports.

Saudi men can easily manipulate women since the app is free and available in the Saudi version of Google and Apple online stores.  Notably, it only takes a data bundles to install the Absher app. The app can send them notifications every time the women access an airport.  The notification comes as a text message as long as the men turn on the notification. It can only track these persons via their identity card or their passport.  Absher is a translation to mean, “Yes sir” as a sign that women have to agree to their men’s demands 

Although the mention of the app in Saudi Arabia seems justified, critics are coming up and raising a concern. Critics are implying that for the creation of the app, tech companies seem to suppress the freedom of Saudi women. In an effort to pull down the app, the Senator of the Democrat of Oregon, Ron Wyden, had the following to say to Apple and Google companies, “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.”   

Wyden further expressed himself to the two company’s chief executive officers Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai by saying that the companies were favoring the Saudi men by making it easy for them to control their family members no matter the distance from the comfort of their smartphones and enable them to limit their families’ movements.  Therefore no member of their family can travel without their knowledge and consent. Which is not right; women should have the right and freedom of movement; they should be respected and be allowed to serve the community without any limitation. Women should be given a chance to speak out and be listening to. It is high time the Saudi Government considers the right and freedom of the women before they get insecure.

According to Wyden, the Apple and Google companies was used by the Saudi government to carry out the disgusting inspection and control of Saudi women.  To him, the act was not pleasing; he thereby went ahead and requested a stop of the inhumanly act. He asked the two companies executive officers to stop being used by the Saudi government.

Wyden’s request was not immediately responded, but later on, a Google representative responded and confirmed that the company is going see whether the App is not accordance after analyzing the App at a much bigger spectrum. 

Saudi Arabia is ever since known as the most restrictive country in the world, but after King Salman ascended the throne, some women restriction was loosened by Mohammed bin Salman, the current king who is the son of King Salman.  Some of the restrictions that loosened are such as women’s dressing codes. The kingdom also expanded opportunities for women in the workforce. Girls are also now able to attend physical education lessons.

After the matter was addressed to the Saudi government, it was then decided that only women under the age of 18 would need permission to travel.  They also made a significant milestone move last year by providing female drivers with a longstanding ban, which showed that the Saudi Government have begun to give Saudi women freedom.