2. Exterior of Electronic Frontier Foundation office
3. Electronic Frontier Foundation door sign
4. EFF's Jillian York works on laptop
5. Absher page in Apple app store
6. SOUNDBITE (English) Jillian York, Electronic Frontier Foundation:
"The Absher app replicates a Saudi government Web site portal which allows for a variety of things, including for example paying parking fines. But one key element of this app is that it allows guardians to track the women, their wives or daughters, for travel, to document their travel and to give them permission to travel abroad which is part of the Saudi legal structure."
7. Side profile shot of York on laptop
8. SOUNDBITE (English) Jillian York, Electronic Frontier Foundation:
"Historically in Saudi when a woman wanted to travel abroad she would have to get a signed piece of paper giving her the permission to do that. With this app it enables husbands or other guardians to much more easily track, surveil their wives or daughters comings and goings and so basically this is sort of a type of spyware that's government sponsored."
9. On screen view, scrolling through Absher app store page on tablet
Google will keep a Saudi app available for download in its mobile app store, despite calls from legislators that it violates women's rights and should be removed.
The Saudi government app, Absher, is mostly a way for residents and citizens of Saudi Arabia to pay traffic fines, file for permits and complete other administrative tasks electronically.
But it includes a feature that has sparked controversy – the ability for Saudi men to grant or deny a woman permission to travel.
Apple told US lawmakers critical of the app it is still investigating.
Google and Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
Regardless of their age, women in Saudi Arabia must have the consent of a male relative to obtain a passport, travel or marry.
In the past, a travel permit was a paper document issued by the Interior Ministry and signed by a male relative.
The app has replaced that document, but removing the app would not change or remove the guardianship rules in place.
Apple's App Store guidelines seem to give the company a lot of latitude in what apps are considered unacceptable, including those that have "content that is offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust or in exceptionally poor taste."
Google also has guidelines to prohibit apps that facilitate harassment and characteristics tied to systemic discrimination.