FIFA World Cup applications raise privacy concerns

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The FIFA World Cup kicked off last Sunday. As soccer fans prepare to cheer on their countries, privacy experts are blaming the sporting event for threatening the security of its participants’ data.

Two apps are required to attend the festivities: Ehteraz, a COVID-19 tracking system, and Hayya, an app used to allow fans to access stadium grounds, check schedules and get free public transportation.

Now, several digital security agencies have alerted users to privacy issues with both apps, first reported last month after analyzing the apps’ access permissions. 

Used nationwide before games, Ehteraz asks users to allow remote access to photos and videos, make unsolicited calls and read or modify device data. Hayya’s permissions include full network access and unlimited access to personal data. Both allow users to be located.

In addition to broader concerns about digital surveillance in Qatar, privacy experts have gone so far as to suggest that World Cup attendees use disposable phones rather than allow apps to access their personal devices, as The Register reports.

The « Boycott Qatar » movement continues to gain momentum as global coalitions call on fans and countries to boycott the games, citing a series of human rights violations. Activists point to the country’s homophobic laws (exacerbated by public comments by national officials), as well as the dangerous treatment of migrant workers building the event’s infrastructure. 

According to a poll conducted by Amnesty International in September, there is a growing sentiment that FIFA should comment officially on Qatar’s actions and offer financial compensation to World Cup workers facing unsafe working conditions.

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