Google won’t remove Saudi app that lets men track women

By Christopher Carbone, Fox News

Google has reportedly rejected calls from US lawmakers to remove a Saudi government app that allows men to control where women travel and offers alerts if and when they leave the country. Saudi law says every woman must have a male guardian.

The app, called Absher, has prompted a backlash from members of Congress and human rights groups.

A group of 14 members of the House of Representatives, including the body’s first two Muslim-American women, Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, demanded that Google and Apple ban the app in a letter sent Feb. 21 to the tech giants.

“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,” the lawmakers said. “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.”

Amnesty International has said the app, which allows Saudis to interact with the government in a number of ways, is being used to curtail women’s rights.

According to Business Insider, Google reviewed the app and determined that it does not violate the search giant’s policies, so it can remain on the Google Play store. Apple has said it is still reviewing the app.

“The responses received so far from Apple and Google are deeply unsatisfactory,” a spokesperson for Rep. Jackie Speier, who signed the letter, told Business Insider.

This isn’t the first time that the tech companies have come under fire for hosting apps.

A New York state lawmaker blasted Google in January for hosting an app that promotes gay conversion therapy, a widely discredited practice, and a petition calling on the tech giant to remove the app has garnered 137,000 signatures.

Fox News reached out to Google and Apple for comment on the Saudi app and will update this story as needed.

Google Play’s app developer terms of service state that they don’t permit apps that “promote violence, or incite hatred against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or any other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization.”