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People are leaving scathing App Store and Google Play reviews to discredit a Saudi government app that helps men control where women travel



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  • People are torpedoing the rating of a Saudi government app helping men control where women go on Google Play and Apple’s App Store.
  • “Absher” is an app for managing day-to-day tasks, but it’s also where men give permission for women to leave the country. 
  • After INSIDER reported on the app US Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Katherine Clark, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International criticised Apple and Google for hosting Absher.
  • Dozens of new one-star reviews on Google Play and the App Store advise people to report the app and slam Google and Apple for hosting it. 
  • Read INSIDER’s in-depth report on Absher which triggered the criticism here.

People are leaving damning one-star reviews for a Saudi government app on Google Play and the App Store, because it helps men restrict where women go outside the country.

Absher is mostly a government app for managing day-to-day tasks, but it’s also where men give and take away permission for women to exit the country. This is required under Saudi Arabia’s Islamic guardianship laws.

After the app was slammed by US Sen. Ron Wyden, Democratic Party Caucus vice chair Katherine Clark, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, people began rating it one star, reporting it, and criticizing Google and Apple for abetting the restriction on women’s freedom.  

Here are some of the dozens of critical reviews posted on Google Play since INSIDER first reported on the mounting criticism:

comment 1 google play absher

absher comment 2 saudi google

google play absher review 3

absher review

Absher has been downloaded 4.2 million times from iOS devices and 5 million times via Google Play, the app intelligence firm Apptopia told INSIDER.

 Negative reviews were also left on the app on Apple’s App Store, like this one:

Apple review ap absher

Absher is listed on Google Play and the App Store under the “Productivity” category.

The Saudi Ministry of the Interior and the Saudi Embassies in London and Washington did not respond when approached by INSIDER for comment. 

Read more: People are leaving one-star reviews for Salt Bae’s restaurant after he served steak to Venezuela’s president

INSIDER was first media outlet to report in-depth on Absher, prompting Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to criticize Google and Apple for hosting the app on their stores.

After other international news organisations began to cover the criticism, US Senator Ron Wyden wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Monday to demand they pull the app.

Late on Monday, when National Public Radio (NPR) put the criticism to Cook, he said: “I haven’t heard about it. But obviously we’ll take a look at it if that’s the case.”

Criticism also came from Rep. Katherine Clark and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney.

On Wednesday, Google said they were looking into the app. 

Absher 2

The app has been downloaded 4.2 million times on the App Store and 5 million times on Google Play since launching in mid-2015, according to Apptopia.

92% of installs happened in Saudi Arabia but nearly 430,000 (5.5% ) have come from within the US, app researchers Sensor Tower told INSIDER.

A 2017 estimate from the US Census Bureau lists 82,201 Saudi nationals as living in the US.

Apple and Google have not responded to repeated requests for comment from INSIDER.

Do you work at Apple or Google? Got a tip? Contact this reporter at [email protected], on Signal +447873371206, or Twitter DM at @willbostockUK. (PR pitches by email only, please.) You can alsocontact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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