On the Apple iTunes and Google Play store, the Absher app is described as an eServices application that provides users with a portal to the government of Saudi Arabia - but according to a U.S. senator and human rights groups, it's also a tool to help control Saudi women. They also claim that Absher facilitates human rights abuses, which go against Apple and Google's app policies.
It is illegal for women in the kingdom to travel without the permission of a male guardian, typically a male relative or spouse. In some cases, men have used the app to keep women from traveling outside the country.
Sayde Scarlett, of Sanctions for Saudi, which campaigns from Britain on behalf of Arab women, said: "Google and Apple portray..."
In statements sent to Business Insider, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and a women's rights activist called on Apple and Google to reconsider hosting Absher on their respective app stores.
"The use of the Absher app to curtail the movement of women once again highlights the disturbing system of discrimination against women under the guardianship system and the need for genuine human rights reforms in the country, rather than just social and economic reforms."The Saudi Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment".
On Google Play, Absher has been downloaded more than a million times and has a rating of 4.6. "So, you can safely browse your profile or your family members, or labors [sic] working for you, and perform a wide range of eServices online".
"You would think the government would use technology to move forward but instead they are moving backwards", one 25-year-old Saudi woman said in the report.