Qatar makes COVID-19 app necessary, consultants query effectivity | Qatar Information

Qatar is popping to expertise to assist include the coronavirus.

Though the nation has solely seen 23 confirmed deaths thus far, its an infection charge stays stubbornly excessive. Greater than 40.000 individuals have been contaminated amid a inhabitants of roughly 2.eight million.

The brand new Ehteraz app is seen by authorities officers as the most recent salvo in its makes an attempt to curb the transmission of the lethal virus.


Beginning late final week, residents and residents have been required to have the Ehteraz contact-tracing app put in on cell units when leaving their properties, permitting the federal government to trace if the consumer has been in contact with an contaminated particular person.

Not having the app put in could lead on probably to a most positive of $55,000 or three years in jail.

However the announcement, days earlier than the Eid al-Fitr vacation, led customers to boost privateness issues because the app wants entry to information on the cellphone and everlasting use of GPS and Bluetooth for location monitoring.

In response, a authorities spokesperson advised Al Jazeera that consumer knowledge can be protected and solely well being professionals might entry the information.

The federal government assures that different businesses, resembling legislation enforcement, couldn’t entry private knowledge on the app, and any knowledge collected can be deleted after two months.

“We verify that each one consumer knowledge on Ehteraz app is totally confidential and is simply accessible to related, specialised groups when crucial,” Qatar’s Director of the Public Well being Division Dr Mohamed bin Hamad Al Thani mentioned.

Regardless of these assurances the World Well being Group (WHO) and a number of other impartial research have known as using apps into doubt, with the WHO saying there’s “solely anecdotal proof” they’re efficient, including they need to not exchange handbook contact tracing.

MIT Know-how Assessment’s Tate Ryan-Mosley, who has created a database of government-backed COVID-19 apps, advised Al Jazeera the thought of contact tracing is outdated, however that digital tracing, which began to realize traction in the course of the Ebola outbreak, has not confirmed to be efficient but.

“What we’re seeing now could be a sort of tech solutionism, which means that these new applied sciences are seen as a panacea to all points,” Ryan-Mosley advised Al Jazeera.

Another excuse privateness consultants name apps like these into query is as a result of they are saying the expertise used is solely not that efficient.

“These and different applied sciences like Bluetooth might be mixed for higher accuracy, however there isn’t any assure {that a} given cellphone might be positioned with six-foot precision at a given time,” the Digital Frontier Basis (EFF), one of many world’s main digital rights and privateness organisations, advised Al Jazeera.

Even the creator of Bluetooth, the expertise thought of most helpful for these objective apps, mentioned not too long ago that there are a number of downsides to utilizing the expertise, calling it “not correct” sufficient.

Delicate knowledge

Nevertheless, the federal government of Qatar mentioned, “the appliance permits the competent authorities to trace the areas the place this particular person was current since downloading the appliance till the second of an infection and thus all individuals or a big proportion of the individuals who combine with them might be generally known as lengthy they’re utilizing the identical software.”

Eva Blum-Dumontet, senior researcher at privateness organisation Privateness Worldwide, questioned why Ehteraz wants a cellphone quantity and private identification quantity to work, whereas others international locations put out apps that don’t want that sort of private info.

“Any app that requires a private ID quantity, particularly when it’s saved in a centralised database, is prone to outdoors individuals gaining access to these databases,” Blum-Dumontet mentioned, additionally referring to Singapore’s app, which makes use of an identical database system containing contact info.

“ID numbers are sometimes nearly like biometric knowledge, and you may’t change them simply. So if it is on the market after a leak or a hack, for instance, penalties are lots larger,” she added.

A greater means to do that, the EFF and others say, is utilizing so-called “decentralised anonymised techniques”, which acquire the least quantity of private info, that’s then solely saved on the system and never in a central database.

MIT’s Ryan-Mosley added that making any app necessary won’t truly work.

“There’s analysis finished that if a authorities makes one thing obligatory, like an app, as an illustration, the chance of individuals placing their belief in it’s much less,” she mentioned, including: “If individuals do not belief them, they will be in search of workarounds, not utilizing these apps in good religion.”

Nevertheless, Qatari officers preserve that there is no such thing as a cause for the general public to mistrust the app.

“Ehteraz won’t ever undermine the privateness of the customers, and the saved info is not going to be saved past two months earlier than being deleted endlessly,” Dr Mohammed bin Hamad Al Thani mentioned.

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