Tech Tent: Will Apple ban that Saudi app?

This week, on the Tech Tent podcast, we ask whether technology companies’ responsibility is to ensure governments do not use their systems to repress their citizens. In Saudi Arabia, ladies want permission from a male dad or mum – typically a father or husband – to tour abroad. A telephone app referred to as Absher, to be had for Apple or Android phones, offers admission to some government offerings. It also allows men to approve or refuse permission for overseas trips made by using ladies.

Recent tales of women who have controlled to depart the united states of America in opposition to the desires of their male spouse and children have highlighted the function technology performs in policing their movements. Rothna Begum, senior girls’ rights researcher on the marketing campaign group Human Rights Watch, explains how the system affects each Saudi lady whilst she travels. “She cannot go away to an airport without permission being furnished. The authorities will recognize whether or not or no longer she has been granted permission.

Salwa, a younger woman who fled Saudi Arabia final yr, advised the BBC she controlled to get out once she maintained her father’s smartphone. She took it while he turned asleep and clicked on the “forgot password” link to thieve his identification. “I modified the variety of my father’s cellphone to my telephone quantity, and I made a consent for my sister and me,” she says. If her parent has asked for notifications when she’s left the airport, he will receive an SMS textual content alert,” she explains.

The pressure on the authorities

According to Rothna, app shop companies have to be displaying that apps aren’t facilitating abuse and discrimination. She has called on Apple and Google to act. “Now that they’ve been alerted to it, they might pass lower back to the Saudi authorities and inform them to remove the capability that is allowing guys to control and tune ladies. Removing the app might not mean the cessation of the male guardianship device. The Saudi government’s web portal has identical features allowing the tracking of girls. But Human Rights Watch believes motion from the tech corporations would grow the pressure on the government to dispose of the gadget.

Apple and Google should properly argue that it isn’t always their activity to determine the countries’ laws where they perform. But, as with their dealings with China, they will additionally be privy to the reputational chance of setting commercial pursuits in advance of the values they claim to espouse. Apple says it’s miles looking into the Absher app. The BBC has contacted Google approximately this problem; however, it has yet to acquire a response.

Also, in this week’s podcast:

Have we reached a tipping factor for electrically powered riding? New studies suggest that owning an electric-powered automobile decreases than that of petrol and diesel motors. We talk about whether or not they’re now a low-priced and sensible preference for motorists. With a brand new e-book known as The Age of Surveillance Capitalism making waves, we ask whether or not the commercial enterprise model of Google, Facebook, and hundreds of other agencies entails the invasion of our privateness.


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