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Amnesty Int'l: Norway, Bahrain & Kuwait Covid-19 apps Threaten Privacy

2020-06-23 - 8:18 am

Bahrain Mirror: An Amnesty International study of 11 Covid-19 contact tracing apps from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa found identified apps from Bahrain, Kuwait and Norway as the most dangerous to users' privacy, according to the Sc Magazine website.

In a news release, the human rights organization's Security Lab said Bahrain's ‘BeAware Bahrain', Kuwait's ‘Shlonik' and Norway's ‘Smittestopp' apps essentially act as mass surveillance tools by conducting live or near-live tracking of users' locations via regular uploads of a device's GPS coordinates to a central server. Bluetooth-based proximity scanning is considered a more preferred method of tracking for privacy reasons, the release explains.

Qatar's "EHTERAZ" contact tracing app, the use of which the country made mandatory last May, also has an option to track all or specific users with a GPS-based tracking feature, but this feature has so far remained off, the release noted. Amnesty International warned that authorities in these countries can "easily link" sensitive location information to an individual, because "Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait require users to register with a national ID number, while Norway requires registration with a valid phone number."

Additionally, Amnesty reported that EHTERAZ was found to contain a security bug that could have exposed the personal details of users. This bug was fixed after Amnesty privately disclosed the issue.

"We urge the Bahraini and Kuwaiti governments to also immediately halt the use of such intrusive apps in their current form. They are essentially broadcasting the locations of users to a government database in real time - this is unlikely to be necessary and proportionate in the context of a public health response. Technology can play a useful role in contact tracing to contain COVID-19, but privacy must not be another casualty as governments rush to roll out apps," Claudio Guarnieri, head of Amnesty International's Security Lab, said in the news release.

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