Amnesty International reported last week that the COVID-19 contact tracing apps in Bahrain, Kuwait and Norway are some of the most invasive COVID-19 contact tracing apps around the world, putting the privacy and security of hundreds of thousands of people at risk.
Amnesty’s Security Lab reviewed contact tracing apps from Europe, Middle East and North Africa, focusing on 11 apps from Algeria, Bahrain, France, Iceland, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Norway, Qatar, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates, some of which ranged from bad to dangerous for human rights. Bahrain’s ‘BeAware Bahrain’, Kuwait’s ‘Shlonik’ and Norway’s ‘Smittestopp’ apps stood out as among the most alarming mass surveillance tools assessed by Amnesty, with all three actively carrying out live or near-live tracking of users’ locations by frequently uploading GPS coordinates to a central server, reports Amnesty International.
“Bahrain, Kuwait and Norway have run roughshod over people’s privacy, with highly invasive surveillance tools which go far beyond what is justified in efforts to tackle COVID-19,” stated Claudio Guarnieri, head of Amnesty International’s Security Lab. “Privacy must not be another casualty as governments rush to roll out apps.”
The Norwegian government said it would press pause on using its contact tracing app. The decision came just hours before Amnesty International published its analysis and after the organization shared its findings with the Norwegian authorities and the country’s data protection agency on 2 June. Amnesty International also met with the head of development for the ‘Smittestopp’ app on 10 June.
“The Norwegian app was highly invasive and the decision to go back to the drawing board is the right one. We urge the Bahraini and Kuwaiti governments to also immediately halt the use of such intrusive apps in their current form,” added Guarnieri. They are essentially broadcasting the locations of users to a government database in real-time – this is unlikely to be necessary and proportionate in the context of a public health response. Technology can play a useful role in contact tracing to contain COVID-19, but privacy must not be another casualty as governments rush to roll out apps.”