Google 'saves' Saudi App to track women and prevent them from escaping
Despite the criticism of politicians, activists and human rights NGOs, the Mountain View giant (and Apple) does not remove App from store. Democrat lawmaker: Google's response is "unsatisfactory". Substantial "disinterest" in the field of human rights. No comments from the company.
Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The web application launched by Saudi authorities to track the movements of women and prevent them from escaping, effectively encouraging the implementation of male protection online, does not violate google rules or policies .
Faced with protests by human rights activists and NGOs and (bipartisan) questions from congress men and women and senators in Washington, the US giant - leader in internet services - has chosen silence, keeping the app in the store.
In recent years, the Saudi authorities have created an immense database on the women of the country, used by male relatives - father, husband, son - to trace the movements and nip any attempt to escape in the bud. Human rights activists and NGOs have defined the monitoring system, which emerged from an investigation by Insider, a "online extension" of the laws on male protection.
An archive that has existed for years and was recently strengthened, following the story of 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who fled from her family of origin - after abandoning Islam - for fear of being killed. The digitized surveillance system works thanks to the use of a mobile app called Absher, integrated with national borders: in case of use of the passport (authorized or not), text alerts are sent.
In this way the male guardians can determine when, from which airports and for how long the women are allowed to travel, trapping them in Saudi Arabia. The phenomenon has assumed considerable importance, considering that every year at least 1000 women try to escape; Absher made it possible to capture most of them, well before they could leave the country.
One month after the first report articles appeared on the main international media, the application is still available in Google's virtual stores (and Apple). Over a million Saudi Internet users have downloaded it in recent years and continue to use it without problems.
Recently, the US parliamentarian Jackie Speier met the leaders of the Mountain View and Cupertino colossus, and judges the answers received "unsatisfactory". "I am disappointed - says the Democratic representative - for their substantial lack of interest in the field of human rights". Their answer to the questions, she adds, is "unsatisfactory".
To date, there are no official Google (and Apple) comments on the matter.
In Saudi Arabia - where opinions on the App remain mixed - women continue to be repressed for their activism and the much-heralded "reforms" of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (Mbs), including the end of the ban on driving, have had little impact . Male protection is considered a form of gender apartheid, which binds the woman to her own "guardian" male. It is applied both online and on social networks, as well as in real life.