Apple CEO pledges to investigate Saudi app

Absher app from Ministry of Interior has been criticised for allowing tracking of women

Tags: Apple IncorporatedGoogle IncorporatedMinistry of Interior - Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia
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Apple CEO pledges to investigate Saudi app Tim Cook has said that Apple will investigate the Absher app. (Getty Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  February 14, 2019

Apple has said that it will investigate Saudi Arabia's Absher app, which can be used by Saudi men to track their wives and daughters.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said that he was not aware of Absher, which is available from the Apple App Store, but that the company would investigate.

The app has come under fire from US senators because it can be used by men to track ‘dependent' female family members and alert the user if the woman tries to leave the country.

The app was designed by the Ministry of Interior as a general identity and authentication app, which is integrated with other government e-services such as vehicle registration. The app is available for Apple and Android platforms.

Absher also includes functions which allow a male guardian to register their dependent wives, sisters and daughters, and receive an alert if the woman attempts to leave the country without their permission.

The Saudi system requires such female dependents to gain permission from a male guardian, usually a relative, for a number of things including international travel.

Absher has recently been criticised by Amnest International, and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who appealed in an open letter to the Apple and Google CEOs to remove the app that is "being used by the Saudi government to enable the abhorrent surveillance and control of women."

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