Tuesday, Nov 22, 2022, 15:13 Hardware

Fifa World Cup: Warning Against Official Quatari-Apps – "Data Protection Nightmare" & Urgent Recommenations

In many respects, the just-begun Fifa World Cup in Qatar has been the topic of both a great deal of criticism and discussions. From concerns about the working conditions at the construction sites, all the way to concerns about human rights violations, there are a plethora of reasons why this year's World Cup is particularly controversial. Now, another concern has arisen – this time from more of a data protection rights perspective, as the EU recently referred to the official World Cup app as a data protection nightmare. Qatar requires all visitors to install an app for coronavirus infection tracking purposes ("Ehteraz"). However, this app is under no condition anonymous nor decentralized like the Corona Warn app used in Germany and other such apps in neighboring EU countries or the United States. Instead, the Qatari app transfers all data onto a central server.

Local Transport, Tickets... & Much More Undesirable Things
Those who install the other World Cup app, which helps navigate local public transport and processing of digital entry tickets ("Hayya"), still need to reckon with extensive recording of their own activities. As opposed to documented in the app's privacy policy, even phone numbers with which the user has recently had contact are logged by the app. More than likely, the transmission of other similar data to central servers also takes place, without any specific indication of this provided by the app. Additionally, the apps also prevent devices from entering the sleep mode.



Access To Smartphone Content
Due to the magnitude of the issue, there are warnings from various European countries to avoid using the official apps for World Cup tourists as much as possible. Should users find themselves entirely unable to do so, the rather drastic recommendation is for them to purchase a second smartphone for solely this purpose. The second smartphone should not possess any form of personal data, as the security of this data cannot be verified after the installation of any World Cup apps. There's a great deal of suspicion that authorities could achieve far-reaching access to smartphone content via the apps. Users should immediately uninstall and delete the apps when no longer required because of this.

Thus Far No Response From Either Apple Or Google
Both Apple and Google have yet to release a statement concerning the matter. However, it appears unlikely that the apps would be able to attain full access to user data. Official distribution of the apps occurs via the App Store, which is why it's certainly not possible for the apps to snoop around in just any corner of users' data at will. Developers need to document data accessed by their apps – and when interfaces are accessed by the app unrelated to the app's function, this normally results in the rejection of the entire app.

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