“Take old, empty phone with you and only download essential apps”: Belgian privacy watchdog warns fans who go to World Cup

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Anyone traveling to Qatar in the coming days and weeks to attend the Football World Cup should bring an empty mobile phone and do not install all the World Cup apps required in the country. That is what privacy watchdogs in Europe and our own Data Protection Authority say. There is great concern for privacy.

Guy Stevens

In Norway, Germany and France, among others, a document has been distributed by the privacy watchdog to advise football fans traveling to Qatar to be wary. The motto is clear: do not download the mandatory official World Cup apps in the country. These are Hayya, a government app that serves as the official World Cup app and ticket, and Ehteraz. The latter app is necessary to enter healthcare institutions – doctor’s practices, hospitals, pharmacies….

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Both would contain spyware that gives the Qatari government access to a lot of information from the users. The actions of the users could be tracked, but just as well the apps give the government the ability to read, change and delete content and even make phone calls via your smartphone. By looking at the cell phone data, the very conservative government could, for example, keep an eye on where gay people congregate, a crime in the country.

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“One of the apps is preventing your phone from going to sleep. The data on the device is automatically transferred to a central server,” says the German privacy watchdog BFDI. The advice that is also given in France and Norway is that you should only download the apps when it is really necessary. In addition, it is advisable to bring an old or empty telephone with you, which does not contain any data or content that other people can use. Another tip: make sure that as many settings as possible, such as location services, are turned off.

The same signal comes from the Data Protection Authority in our country. He also advises to be very careful and only download those apps if it is really necessary. “If downloading the apps is required, try to travel with an empty phone – for example an old one – and don’t forget to uninstall the apps when you get back,” it says there.

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