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Controversial app to control Saudi women still on Play Store and App Store
Apps 3 min read 4 comments

Controversial app to control Saudi women still on Play Store and App Store

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.

Shutterstock couple phone
In Saudi Arabia all women are under male guardianship / © Elnur / Shutterstock

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.

absher app saudi arabia
This is what the app looks like and you can download it from anywhere. / © Google Play Store

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.

4 comments

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  • I think this author has no idea what they're talking about. The app streamlines a very archaic patriarchal system, yes, but it actually helps women. Before the Absher app, male Saudis had to go to overcrowded government offices to sign travel permission documents for women. Many couldn't be bothered to do it. So this app actually lifts the burden and makes it much easier for women to travel in Saudi.

    The guardianship laws are extremely archaic and patriarchal, no argument there. They should be removed, and many progressive Saudis are actually against the laws, both men and women. However, removing these apps from Google/App would make the situation worse, not better.

    Try to do some research and not just spout knee-jerk reactions next time you cover a sensitive issue.


  • the intended use of this app as it is intended is not good but, let's face it the world is a scary place. my wife and I use an app to keep track of each other's location. not because we don't trust each other but to keep each other safe. as for instance I'm a truck driver. she knows that if I don't get in contact with her. or my truck hasn't moved in a period of time. I may be in some sort of trouble. and I welcome that. as I've stated the world is a scary place. some might see an app like this as an invasion of privacy. I however do not. I see it as a safety net for loved ones to keep each other safe. and by the way she feels the same way. we love and respect each other. and we have no issues see each other knowing where we are.. just a thought...


  • It's THEIR country. I think they are backwards to the 12th century in their so called customs, but it's none of my business.


    • They have been like this since 7th Century.
      Failed Civilization of Arabia.
      According to Winston Churchill “The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. ”
      I am greatly pained and my heart bleeds seeing women in such a lamentable state in some parts of the world.