If you plan on visiting Qatar this year for the FIFA World Cup, you’d best be prepared to experience incessant, involuntary, and limitless breaches of your privacy and security. Privacy, you may be aware, is highlighted in the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner’s Special Rapporteur on International standards as a universal human right. Obviously, unless you live in a communist nation.
The fact is, however, that Qatar is not a communist nation. Qatar is a semi-constitutional hereditary monarchy where the Emir is the head of state and chief executive of the kingdom. Someone seems to have forgotten to tell Qatar about this, though, because the nation is wilfully going against your universal right to privacy. Qatar has mandated the download of two highly-questionable applications that not only track your location and have access to your apps but can also write and delete files on your system.
Ehteraz is a Covid-19 tracker, and Hayya is an app that controls entry to the various stadiums in Qatar. Hayya also grants visitors access to free usage of the bus and metro transportation services. These apps are non-optional.
Even before the use of Ehteraz for the World Cup the app was under heavy scrutiny. This is because the app literally allows remote access to your phone and all of its files. Ehteraz can also make calls without your permission or intervention. The app requires that your location services be turned on for the duration of your stay – an already questionable pre-requisite to watching the 2022 FIFA World Cup live.
Tom Lysemose, the co-founder and CTO of Promon, an app security form, recently spoke to The Register about the app. ‘Ehteraz is able to install an encrypted file that claims to hold a unique ID, QR code, infection status, configuration parameters and proximity data of other devices using the app. Essentially, it is clear that the app is taking data from the end user for more reasons than are expressed by the given consent button.
Even though this is a terrifying prospect, there are a few actions you can take to protect yourself from these attacks on your privacy. Norway’s head of security is on record as having told the Norwegian Broadcasting Company: ‘I would never bring my mobile phone on a visit to Qatar.’
CNIL, the French data protection agency, suggests that a burner phone may be the best way to secure your private information from the clearly prying eyes of the Qatar establishment.
The best way to circumvent these Orwellian rules would be to enjoy the World Cup from your favorite streaming service. Peacock is confirmed to be streaming Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup from the 20th of November. If you want to get into some gaming action, be sure to check out FIFA 23.