Combating coronavirus: Qatar Covid-19 tracing app stirs rare privacy backlash

Combating, coronavirus, Qatar, Covid-19, tracing app, stirs, rare, privacy backlash

Doha - Qatar has turned to mobile phones to trace people's movements and track who they come into contact with.



By AFP

Published: Mon 25 May 2020, 6:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 25 May 2020, 8:39 PM

Privacy concerns over Qatar's coronavirus contact tracing app, a tool that is mandatory on pain of prison, have prompted a rare backlash and forced officials to offer reassurance and concessions.
Like other governments around the world, Qatar has turned to mobile phones to trace people's movements and track who they come into contact with, allowing officials to monitor coronavirus infections and alert people at risk of contagion.
The apps use Bluetooth radio signals to "ping" nearby devices, which can be contacted subsequently if a user they have been near develops symptoms or tests positive, but the resultant unprecedented access to users' location data has prompted fears about state surveillance.
Qatar's version goes considerably further - it forces Android users to permit access to their picture and video galleries, while also allowing the app to make unprompted calls.
The government launched the "Ehteraz" app, meaning "precaution", in April and on Friday it became mandatory for all citizens and legal residents to install it on their phones.
Non-compliance is punishable by up to three years in jail - the same term as for failing to wear a mask in public - in a state battling one of the world's highest per capita infection rates.
Security forces manned checkpoints across Qatar on Sunday to ensure use of the app, local media reported, alongside checking for use of masks.


More news from Coronavirus