Israel’s vibrant tech scene is once again causing headaches for Iranian entrepreneurs and consumers.
Iran has once again blocked Waze, a mobile navigation app developed in Israel that was purchased in 2013 by Google for a cool $1.3 billion. Waze is a popular GPS navigation software used by Iranians as well as the country’s leading ride-hailing apps, Snapp and Tap30 (both services are similar to Uber).
Here’s how Waze works: Waze’s active community of users share real-time traffic and road information, providing drivers information about reported obstacles on your route (e.g. road closures, accidents, police traps), and can then redirect you to your destination. Given Tehran’s heavy traffic, the app is widely used to find alternate routes.
Why was it blocked: Because the app was built in Israel.
This is not the first time that Waze has been blocked by Iranian authorities. Iran temporarily blocked the app in March. On March 7, Iran’s Deputy Prosecutor-General Abdolsamad Khorramabadi said, “The Waze app is a spying tool that belongs to the Zionist regime. The moment it is installed on the phone it has access to all the personal information of the user, including travel and geographic location. This can create security problems for the people and for the country.”
Iranian authorities went on to stress that since the software can be replaced by many other native apps, businesses should use the domestic versions instead. One such app that is being introduced as a replacement for Waze is Daal, a domestic navigation app that has been developed by a group of students at Sharif University of Technology.
Why it matters: Public backlash. During the initial ban, Reza Ghazinouri, co-director of human rights group United for Iran said: “Iranian officials’ recent attempt to block Waze is the newest assault in a long battle they have waged against Iranians’ right to freedom of information.”Furthermore, the ban on Waze is seen as a major violation of personal privacy rights. It is believed that Snapp, which claims to be the largest transportation service app in the country, searched its users phones without consent for the presence of banned apps. If during the search a banned app was discovered, Snapp would be disabled until the banned app was removed from the device.
This is not the first time that an Israeli built app has been banned in Iran. In 2014, the Israeli-founded communications app Viber was blocked.