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Science & Technology

Google Won’t Remove Controversial Saudi ‘Women Tracker’ App

Monday 04/March/2019 - 08:42 PM
Sada El Balad
Technical Times
Google has refused to remove a controversial app by a Saudi government that allows men to track women and control their travels، saying it doesn't violate their Play Store policies.

The app، called Absher، was reviewed by Google and concluded that it meets all the company's terms and conditions، and thus، it can remain on the Play Store.

As Business Insider reports، Google confirmed the decision to the office of democrat representative Jackie Speier، who، along with other members of the U.S. Congress، demanded last week that the app be removed from Google's digital store.

Google has yet to offer a word on its decision not to remove the app.

Controversial App Absher
Absher made headlines last month after it was discovered that it had features that allow Saudi men to either grant or rescind travel permission for women. Another feature lets them set up SMS alerts when women use their passports.

Speier and 13 other representatives in Congress wrote to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook on Feb. 21، encouraging them to have the app removed. Continuing to hosting the app means that Apple and Google are "accomplices in the oppression of Saudi Arabian women،" the representatives wrote in the letter.

Apple told Spier that it's still in the process of reviewing Absher. The Cupertino company has yet to comment about the issue، however.

Deeply Unsatisfactory
The responses received thus far from both companies have been "deeply unsatisfactory،" said Spier، as Business Insider reports. Spier told the publication that Apple and Google can easily remove the app، much like when they pulled Living Hope Ministries، an app which encouraged users to convert LGBTQ people. That app was removed on the basis that it could cause harm. Absher، Spier argues، has the potential to cause harm as well.

"Facilitating the detention of women seeking asylum and fleeing abuse and control unequivocally causes harm."

Terms And Conditions
Google Play Store policies state that the platform doesn't lend to apps that encourage violence، or trigger hatred against individuals or people based on race، ethnic origin، religious beliefs، disability، age، nationality، veteran status، sexual orientation، gender or gender identity، or any other characteristic associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization."

If more pushback occurs going forward، the app will likely disappear from both platforms. Make sure to check back with Tech Times as we learn more about Google's and Apple's plans with Absher.

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