That women don't have it very easy in many parts of the world is not news, sadly. What is, however, is that technology makes things a little worse for them. This is what is happening with Absher, an abominable application developed by the government of Saudi Arabia with the sole purpose of controlling the women of that country. The worst? Google Play and the Apple Store have made it available on both of their platforms.
And I say the worst because someone should at least worry about having a slightly stricter code of ethics. Both technological giants have been accused of "favoring gender apartheid" by various human rights organizations, as well as by other companies in the sector and various political representatives. And it's no mean feat.
With over a million downloads so far, the Absher application (or "the preacher" in its Arabic translation) is a fully-fledged tracking system that was released at the end of January. But it wasn't until recently that the Business Insider sounded the alarm.
All women are under male guardianship, so the Saudi laws that gave rise to the terrible app that allows "guardians" to indicate where women can go and how long they can stay there, or at which airports they can stay (if they use the passport at any time, men receive an alert SMS). Of course, if those women leave the area, the alarms will go off on the smartphone of the owner. Full control in a single click. Terrifying, to say the least.
And all thanks to a list provided by the government that includes all the women in the country.
Too bad, Apple. Very bad, Google
It is clear that the archaic nature of Saudi law stands contrary to the modern ethos that companies like Google and Apple would like to portray. Such policies against women cannot be allowed in the 21st century. Let us hope that this will change at some point in Saudi Arabia, but at the very least, our technology should not support this.
What would be more logical is for both Apple and Google to consider banning the app in their stores. Both companies have already stated that they are investigating the matter, but for the time being it is still there. We'll see what will come out of this.
On one side of the coin we have technology that protects women, and small (but meaningful) advances like the inclusion of the menstruation emoji for the de-stigmatization of something so common to all women. On the other we have the opposite: horror in the form of an app. How far are we going to go?
Do you think this app should be deleted from the Play Store and Apple Store? Let us know in the comments.