Senator Ron Wyden has publicly denounced both Apple and Google for hosting mobile apps that connect to Absher, a Saudi government service designed to allow Saudi men to track their spouses and employees' whereabouts at all times.
Absher is a multifunction service, integrating payments and other services.
Recent events have highlighted the routine oppression of Saudi women, even women from wealthy, powerful households.
Notable: there is no campaign calling on Google and Apple to eliminate apps that allow parents to track their children (including teens) with an accuracy and totality once reserved for paroled prisoners. The adoption curve for oppressive technology goes: refugee, immigrant, prisoner, mental patient, children, welfare recipient, blue collar worker, white collar worker (think, for example, of video surveillance cameras). By this model, the Saudis aren't so much guilty of a horrific program of oppressive misogyny as they are of simply being a decade or so ahead of schedule (and maybe not even that long).
There's really no reason either company should be hosting this app in their app stores. If Absher's creators want to distribute an app that prevents certain Saudi citizens from being treated as equals, they're free to host it on their own site. It's not like the developers don't have the clout to go it alone. The app is developed and supported by none other than the Saudi government.
This isn't the sort of thing American companies should be giving platform space to, even if it technically meets the inconsistent standards both companies apply to app submissions.
Google, Apple Called Out For Hosting Saudi Government App That Allows Men To Track Their Spouses' Movements [Tim Cushing/Techdirt]
Dale Maharidge is a journalist and J-school professor who is dear old friends with the muckracking, outstanding political documentarian Laura Poitras. Jessica Bruder (previously) is a a writer and J-school prof who's best friends with Maharidge. When Laura Poitras was contacted by an NSA whistleblower who wanted to send her the leak of the century, she asked Maharidge for help finding a safe address for a postal delivery, and Maharidge gave her Bruder's Brooklyn apartment address. A few weeks later, Bruder came home from a work-trip to discover a box on her doormat with the return address of "B. Manning, 94-1054 Eleu St, Waipau, HI 96797." In it was a hard-drive. The story of what happened next is documented in a beautifully written, gripping new book: Snowden's Box: Trust in the Age of Surveillance.
Tracking entire populations now with electronic surveillance, facial recognition, and biosecurity sensors to combat the coronavirus pandemic will inevitably mean even more invasive forms of government spying later, privacy advocates warn.
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