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Message to football fans from European data protection officers: Qatar World Cup apps pose a huge privacy risk, so please don’t download them.
European data protection regulators have lined up to warn of the risks Qatar’s World Cup apps pose to visitors, with Germany’s data protection commissioner being the latest. In a statement On Tuesday, the Germans said the data collected by two Qatari apps that visitors are encouraged to download “go much further” than the apps’ privacy notices indicate.
“One of the apps collects data indicating whether and with which number a phone call is made,” the German authority said. “The other app is actively preventing the device it is installed on from going into sleep mode. It is also obvious that the data used by the apps not only stays locally on the device, but is also transmitted to a central server.
German data chiefs say if it’s “absolutely necessary” to download the apps, do it on another blank phone.
The Norwegian and French data protection agencies have already issued similar opinions.
The Norwegian the regulator said on Monday he was “alarmed” by the extended access that applications need. “There is a real possibility that visitors to Qatar, and in particular vulnerable groups, will be monitored by Qatari authorities,” he said.
The French agency said fans should pay “special attention” to photos and videos, and recommends travelers install apps just before departure and delete them upon returning to France.
The French government — although having close ties with Qatar – echoed the opinion of the CNIL on Tuesday. “In France, thanks to the [General Data Protection Regulation], all applications must guarantee the fundamental rights of individuals and the protection of their data. This is not the case in Qatar.” tweeted Jean-Noël Barrot, Minister Delegate for Digital, referring to the guidelines of the privacy regulator.
Nearly 1.5 million visitors are waiting in Qatar for the World Cup, which runs from November 20 to December 18. The event has been plagued with controversy since winning the tournament in 2010. Bribery and Corruption Allegations continued the bidding process, and the country’s human rights record, working conditions for migrant workers and treatment of the LGBTQ+ community have been criticized by activists, The politicians and football associations.
Foreigners visiting the country have been advised to download the official Hayya World Cup app, while those visiting health facilities will need to download the Ehteraz infection tracking app.
Both apps have been labeled as “spyware” by experts because they to bring Qatari authorities broad access to people’s data as well as the power to read, delete or edit content and even make direct calls.
The Qatari government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Google and Apple, whose online stores host the apps, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
This article has been updated to include a comment from French Deputy Minister Jean-Noël Barrot.