Earlier this month, the Absher app from the Saudi government on the App Store came under scrutiny after it was discovered that it was used by Saudi males to track their female family members. The app can be used by Saudi men to control where their female family members can travel, including granting or revoking permission to airports and destinations.
Now, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has pledged to get to the bottom of this issue. Talking about it to National Public Radio, Cook said he was not aware of the app but promised to take action if that was the case.
“I haven’t heard about it,” Cook told NPR. “But obviously we’ll take a look at it if that’s the case.”
What’s more telling is just how powerful this Absher app is and ingrained it is in the Saudi culture. While it can be used for paying parking fines, renewing driver’s license, and other such activities, it is the control that it provides Saudi males over their female family members that is really telling. And that’s not it. The system also sends SMS alerts to the male guardian when a female family member uses their passport at a border or for airport check-in.
The app has come under criticism from both Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch, with Apple and Google both not responding to requests for comment on it.
Given that the Absher app acts as a window to the Saudi Government’s portal, it remains to be seen if Apple will take down the app or not.[Via Business Insider]