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Apple, Google Face Criticism For Hosting Saudi Woman- tracking App

Amnesty International called on Apple and Google to demand changes to the app so that it can be stopped for being used to harm women

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Apple could acquire the entertainment company, Netflix
Apple could acquire the entertainment company, Netflix. IANS
Apple and Google are facing criticism from human rights activists for hosting an app that allows men in Saudi Arabia to track and control women’s movements.
According to a report in Insider on Friday, the app called “Absher” lets men to give women permission to travel, and also get SMS when a woman uses her passport at the border.
For making the apps available on Google Play and Apple’s App Store, the US-based tech giants have been accused of facilitating misogyny and helping “enforce gender apartheid”.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and a women’s rights activist urged Apple and Google should reconsider hosting the app, Insider reported, adding that the two tech giants did not respond to its requests for comment.
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The Google name is displayed outside the company’s office in London, Britain. VOA
Under Saudi law, it is essential for women to have a legal “guardian” who can restrict her travel.
While Absher – a government service – offers other functions like paying parking fines, its travel features have been targeted by activists as it makes it difficult for women to leave Saudi Arabia.
“Apple and Google have rules against apps that facilitate threats and harassment,” Human Rights Watch was quoted as saying.
“Apps like this one can facilitate human rights abuses, including discrimination against women.”
Amnesty International called on Apple and Google to demand changes to the app so that it can be stopped for being used to harm women.
Yasmine Mohammed, a critic of Saudi Arabia, told Insider that the companies are “facilitating the most archaic misogyny” and help the Saudi government to enforce “gender apartheid”. (IANS)

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Google Claims It Has “No Plans” To Relaunch A Search Engine in China

Technology companies have recently been a favorite target of many members of the U.S. Congress, who have criticized them over a wide range of issues such as privacy, work in China and allowing foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

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The Chinese flag is seen near the Google sign at the Google china headquarters in Beijing, China. VOA

The United States’ top general said on Thursday that the Chinese military was benefiting from the work Alphabet Inc’s Google was doing in China, where the technology giant has long sought to have a bigger presence.

“The work that Google is doing in China is indirectly benefiting the Chinese military,” Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“We watch with great concern when industry partners work in China knowing that there is that indirect benefit,” he said.

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Lawmakers and Google employees have raised concerns the company would comply with China’s internet censorship and surveillance policies if it re-enters the Asian nation’s search engine market. Pixabay

“Frankly, ‘indirect’ may be not a full characterization of the way it really is, it is more of a direct benefit to the Chinese military.”

Last year Google said it was no longer vying for a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the U.S. Defense Department, in part because the company’s new ethical guidelines do not align with the project.

In June, Google said it would not renew a contract to help the U.S. military analyze aerial drone imagery when it expires, as the company sought to defuse an internal uproar over the deal.

At the same time, Google said it has “no plans” to relaunch a search engine in China, though it is continuing to study the idea.

During the hearing, Republican Senator Josh Hawley sharply criticized the tech company, referring to it as “a supposedly American company.”

FILE - Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a hearing of a Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, March 6, 2019.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a hearing of a Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, March 6, 2019. VOA

Technology companies have recently been a favorite target of many members of the U.S. Congress, who have criticized them over a wide range of issues such as privacy, work in China and allowing foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

Lawmakers and Google employees have raised concerns the company would comply with China’s internet censorship and surveillance policies if it re-enters the Asian nation’s search engine market.

Also Read: India and Pakistan Threaten to Release Missiles at Each Othe

Asked about Dunford’s comments, Google referred to previous statements.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai has previously said the company has invested in China for years and plans to continue to do so, but that the company also was continuing to work with the U.S. government on projects in health care, cybersecurity and other fields. (VOA)