Google declines to pull controversial Saudi government app

We’ve asked Google if it can comment on the decision. Apple told Speier on February 28th that it was still reviewing the app. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has accused politicians and critics of mounting a “systematic campaign” to challenge the intentions of Absher’s services and “politicize” its uses.

It’s a complex situation. On top of its travel tools, Absher is a general-purpose app that covers a variety of tasks — pulling the app as-is would disrupt mobile access to uncontroversial services. This also wouldn’t prevent Android users in Saudi Arabia from sideloading the app outside of the Play Store. At the same time, Google isn’t about to curry favor from American and European politicians by leaving the app intact. Short of an unexpected compromise, Google may have to accept that it might antagonize someone.

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