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Football fans visiting Qatar for the World Cup must not download or install the event's official apps on their iPhones or other devices, EU officials have said data protection. because of the huge privacy risk they pose to those who use them.
For major events such as the World Cup, apps are often created to help attendees and fans navigate, plan trips, and learn other things they might need while attending. While most of the time these apps are fine, it doesn't seem to be the case for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
European data protection regulators are warning about risks to user data by installing the official Qatar World Cup apps on their smartphones and tablets, Politico reports. The warnings are accompanied by claims from Germany that the data collected by the apps “goes much further” than their privacy notices indicate.
One app collects data about phone calls made on the device, including the phone number, the German regulator said, and another prevents devices from going to sleep. “It is also clear that the data used by the apps not only stays locally on the device, but is transferred to a central server,” the regulator added in a statement on Tuesday.
Germany has gone so far as to urge visitors that if it is “absolutely necessary” to use apps, they should do so on a black phone separate from their regular device.
Norway has proposed a similar app access warning. “There is a real possibility that the Qatari authorities will monitor visitors to Qatar and especially vulnerable groups,” the report said.
French authorities added that fans should take “special care” with photos and videos, only install apps immediately before leaving the country, and delete them when they return home.
Junior digital minister of France Jean-Noel Barraud raised the issue of the recommendations of the CNIL privacy regulator in his council. “In France, thanks to the GDPR, all applications must guarantee the fundamental rights of people and the protection of their data. This is not the case in Qatar,” the minister said.
An event marred by controversy since Qatar was awarded the award in 2010 fears that data collected by apps could be used to monitor groups the authoritarian government sees as a problem. Along with the bad record of human rights and the poor treatment of the LGBTQ+ community in the country, this fear is entirely justified.
Neither the government of Qatar, nor Apple, nor Google has yet commented on allegations of privacy violations.