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Tech giants refuse to remove controversial app facilitating ‘oppression of Saudi women’

Google logo is seen on a screen in Ankara, Turkey on August 28, 2018. ( Aytaç Ünal - Anadolu Agency )

Google has dismissed concerns of human rights groups by declining to remove a Saudi government app that allows men in the country to monitor and control their female relatives’ travel at the click of a button.

The tech giant refused to take down the controversial app — Absher — saying that it does not violate any agreements and can therefore remain on the Google Play store. The decision is said to have been communicated by Google to the office of Congressman, Jackie Speier.

The California Democrat along with 13 colleagues called on Google last month to remove the app. They wrote to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook over the issue and gave a deadline of Thursday 28 February to explain why the app is hosted on Google Play.

In a press release Speier said: “The ingenuity of American technology companies should not be perverted to violate the human rights of Saudi women. Twenty-first century innovations should not perpetuate sixteenth century tyranny,” adding: “Keeping this application in your stores allows your companies and your American employees to be accomplices in the oppression of Saudi Arabian women and migrant workers.”

Human rights campaigners have also backed the call arguing that tech giants are enabling abuses against women and girls in the ultra-conservative kingdom by hosting the app.

Neither Google nor Apple have responded to requests for comments. Speier told INSIDER: “The responses received so far from Apple and Google are deeply unsatisfactory,” adding, “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.”

Speier accused the tech firms of “facilitating the detention of women seeking asylum and fleeing abuse and control unequivocally causes harm” and informed the media that she would be “following up on this issue with my colleagues.”

READ: EU lawmakers urge Saudi Arabia to end women’s guardianship system

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