This year’s FIFA World Cup, which gets underway this month, has attracted a fair amount of controversy ever since Qatar was announced as the host country for 2022.
For some there are various issues that will cause them to stay away altogether. But for football fans who are travelling to the country, the tournament could easily turn into a data security and privacy nightmare than a celebration of the beautiful game.
Along with being watched on tens of thousands of surveillance cameras equipped with facial-recognition technology, those visiting Qatar must download two apps: Ehteraz, a Covid-19 tracker, and Hayya, which allows ticket holders entry into the stadiums and access to free metro and bus transportation services.
“I would never bring my mobile phone on a visit to Qatar.”
The ‘Ehteraz’ contact tracking scheme has already come under scrutiny during Covid because it allows remote access to users’ pictures and videos, and can make unprompted calls.
It also requires background location services to always be on and it gives the app the ability to read and write to the file system.
Dramatically, Norway’s head of security was quoted as saying “I would never bring my mobile phone on a visit to Qatar.“
He said that by downloading these apps, which are required to visit Qatar and attend the World Cup, users are forced to hand over all sensitive IP upon arrival.
Once you’ve accepted the terms and conditions of these apps, moderators will have complete control of your device. “All personal content, the ability to edit it, share it, extract it as well as data from other apps on your device is in their hands. Moderators will even have the power to unlock users’ devices remotely.”
Authoritarian regimes are always keen to track who you meet in country, and who you know, and will most likely be using the two apps to scrape all your contacts, check your call and SMS history, track your location through GPS and probably browse your social media contacts…which also puts friends and acquaintances at risk.
France’s data protection agency has already suggested that fans bring a so-called “burner phone” to keep your information safe from prying eyes — and ears.
Even with a new SIM, the advice is that you don’t import any settings or contacts, or log in to your social media accounts. Disappointing with so many photo and showing-off opportunities, but the risks are real.
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