Saudi Domestic Surveillance

Though Saudi women can now legally drive automobiles, they still can't apply for a passport without permission from a male guardian. Once they have a passport, male approval is required for travel abroad. It's one thing for the state to allow women new freedoms. It's quite another for women to expect their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons to allow them to enjoy them.


Last week, reports emerged in Western media that Saudi men have a secret weapon in their fight to limit female freedom. An app known as Absher, linked to a Saudi government system but hosted by Apple and Google, allows male Saudis to track their "dependents" by name and passport number and then limit their ability to travel. They can also enable a feature that sends them a text message when a listed woman uses her passport at an airport or border crossing. With just a few clicks, Saudi men can then use this tool to specify when and where female family members are permitted to travel and to revoke travel permission.

It's yet another example of the collision between economic needs, political reform, social change, and technological development.

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It's Friday, and Signal readers deserve at least one entirely upbeat news story.

José Obdulio Gaviria, a Colombian senator for the rightwing Democratic Center party, is an outspoken opponent of government attempts to make peace with the FARC rebel group after 50 years of conflict.

On his way into a meeting earlier this week, Gaviria collapsed. It was later reported that he had fainted as a result of low blood pressure probably caused by complications following recent open heart surgery.

A political rival, Senator Julian Gallo, quickly came to his rescue and revived him using resuscitation skills he learned as—irony alert—a FARC guerrilla. CPR applied by Gallo helped Gaviria regain consciousness, before another senator, who is also professional doctor, took over. Gaviria was taken to hospital and appears to have recovered.

Because some things will always be more important than politics.