While you’re watching the world cup, Qatar is watching you, then and always

“The mandatory COVID app for the Qatar World Cup is basically government-sponsored spyware.”

That is a prime fact of going to Qatar and watching the world cup, or indeed using any official World Cup related materials, products, apps or web pages.

And yes I know that this sounds like a scare story or fake news, but when it starts popping up in USA Today, then it probably isn’t.

Of course if you want to go to the World Cup in Qatar and put the app on your phone so that the authorities know where you are, and have copies of everything on your phone, that is up to you.  I’m not going, and I’m not watching, basically because I don’t think the world cup is a very good idea, and a winter world cup is an even worse idea and a winter world up in a country with the most appalling human rights regime is an even worse idea than that..

But let’s start with USA Today

They note that Fifa “shamelessly accepted bribes in the bidding process and refused to move the tournament over the subsequent eight years even amid well-documented human rights abuses.”

They cite the Norwegian news outlet NRK (and SB Nation), as the source of their information, and we’ve cited them before, and it is worth noting that the app gives the Qatari state full access to everyone on your phone, including giving the state the ability read, erase and modify data.  From there it gives access via your phone to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and the ability to modify other apps that you have.  The app can’t be turned off and seemingly can’t be deleted, even when it looks like you have removed it.

Thus the state has access to all your correspondence and will remain on your phone when you leave Qatar.

There is more on this on Gadgets Africa.   They add that the app can override other apps and prevent the phone from switching off to sleep mode.

The app is of course on Google Play – which makes Google complicit in this theft of personal data, since they have the job of vetting what all apps can do, in order to stop illegal apps from being offered.  Google are currently tipped to be the likely sponsor of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, so it is worth watching out for any apps related to that location.

I should add that Qatari officials state that there is no reason for the public to distrust the app.  However, it is also being reported that Qatar has also released a list of places from which the media is not allowed to broadcast.  As a result, the media is only going to be able to be at the stadia.

Breibart is another recognized source that is running the story and confirming what we had already expected – that coverage from migrant workers’ camps will not be allowed under any circumstances.  They add that “fans were warned that unmarried couples could face arrest in the strict Muslim nation for having sex out of wedlock.  Fans who support the LGBTQ lifestyle were also warned not to display any outward hints of that support for fear of arrest. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.”

NRK in Norway (which has opposed the Qatar World Cup throughout) has pointed out that the inducement to get people to download the apps is that they give access to the metro free of charge.  But they and other sites are reporting that the Ehteraz app, must be downloaded by everyone coming to Qatar.

And all this is before we get to the bits that we already knew about.  “Alcohol won’t be sold during games, you can’t drink in public (can drink in regulated bars), fans are told to dress “modestly” with their shoulders covered and no skirts, several prescription medications are banned and might not be allowed and that’s just the start,” according to The Independent.

However to counteract the negative publicity all this is bringing the Qatari government has now said that whereas “Previously, visitors had been required to show their vaccination status on the Ehteraz app to enter most public locations, with access potentially restricted to certain venues, the app will now only be necessary for entry to health facilities.”

So they are not checking everyone for Covid, but they are checking everyone for pretty well everything else.

The British media hasn’t done too much about this, but the Guardian has spoken out noting that the rules controlling the media “do not prohibit reports on specific subjects, but [are] restricting where crews can film – “including but not limited to houses, apartment complexes, accommodation sites” – is likely to make it difficult for them to investigate reported abuses, such as the mistreatment of migrant workers, or to conduct interviews on subjects people may be reluctant to discuss in public, such as LGBTQ+ rights.”

Additionally, broadcasters agree “not to capture film/photography at excluded locations”. Places where filming is not allowed under the permit are “residential properties, private businesses and industrial zones” along with “government, educational, health and religious buildings” according to the Guardian.

The Guardian has also pointed out that, “In 2015, a group of BBC reporters was arrested in Doha and spent two nights in prison while investigating housing conditions for migrant workers. Last November, two Norwegian journalists investigating conditions for migrant labourers working on World Cup venues were arrested and detained for 36 hours as they tried to leave the country.”

It is also important to note that despite some changes in the law Qatar has not changed its rules restricting freedom of speech, which include a law against spreading “fake news” online.

If you want to go, you know what you will get.  If you want to follow the news about the world cup via the media you know it will be highly censored.   And if you see a stadium, you’ll know it was built in effect by slave labour.  If that worries you, the best bet is not to go.


One Reply to “While you’re watching the world cup, Qatar is watching you, then and always”

  1. Im hoping every player and anyone connected to Arsenal gets left behind and goes nowhere within 300 miles of the sick country that is Qatar. On a personal note im taking up shove ha’penny for the duration . On a wider note i hope England is turned away from the Qatari border even the rest turned away , give the cup to Qatar without a ball being kicked , so we can all come home and get on with the 2022-23 season .
    Yeh I know , wishful thinking .

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