Amnesty International has raised privacy and security concerns over "invasive" contact-tracing apps rolled out by Bahrain, Kuwait and Norway to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The UK-based rights group said on Tuesday an investigation into COVID-19 apps being used by 11 countries had rated Bahrain's "BeAware Bahrain", Kuwait's "Shlonik", and Norway's "Smittestopp" as among the "most dangerous" for human rights, putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk. Amnesty found that all three were actively carrying out live or near-live tracking of users' locations by frequently uploading GPS coordinates to a central server. "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," Claudio Guarnieri, head of Amnesty International's Security Lab, said in a statement. The Norwegian government paused its use of the app on Monday, which Amnesty hailed as a "major win for privacy", but it urged the Gulf states to immediately halt the use of their apps in the current form. A number of countries have launched government-mandated mobile apps to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 8 million people worldwide and killed at least 436,000.
Norway, Bahrain, and Kuwait are amongst the "most dangerous" for privacy in their deployment of COVID-19 contact tracing apps, as they track their citizens' locations on a live or near real-time basis. These apps adopt an "invasive centralised approach" and pose a "great threat to privacy", according to an Amnesty International study. The group's research, however, does not include countries in Asia or the US. Conducted by Amnesty's Security Lab, the study assessed contact tracing apps from Europe, Middle East, and North Africa, and included detailed technical analyses of 11 apps in Algeria, Bahrain, France, Iceland, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Norway, Qatar, Tunisia, and United Arab Emirates, it said in a statement Tuesday. It noted that Bahrain's BeAware Bahrain, Kuwait's Shlonik, and Norway's Smittestopp apps stood out as amongst the "most alarming mass surveillance tools" it evaluated.
Contact-tracing apps being used to prevent the spread of coronavirus could be collecting deeply personal information, Amnesty International has said. The organisation claims the privacy and security of hundreds of thousands of people have been put at risk by the new platforms. Contact-tracing apps are software that informs people when they have been in contact with someone who has contracted the coronavirus. These vary in terms of features, but can generally be separated into two categories: decentralised apps, where the data is kept on the device, and centralised apps where the data is kept on a separate database. Amnesty International reviewed software from 11 countries, including Algeria, Bahrain, France, Iceland, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Norway, Qatar, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
Mexico has paused its migrant farm worker program in Canada, Mexico's foreign ministry spokesman has said, after a coronavirus outbreak in Ontario killed two workers from Mexico, although Canadian farm groups said the suspension was limited. The outbreak has hit at least 17 farms, killing two Mexicans aged 24 and 31, and prompting the testing of about 8,000 migrant farm workers. The UK's drug regulator has instructed scientists trialling the use of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 to suspend the recruitment of participants. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it was following "emerging concerns" about the use of the drug, and also cited a UK trial which found no meaningful mortality benefit in patients hospitalised with COVID-19. The UK death toll from COVID-19 cases has risen by 233 to 41,969, according to government data. England's Chief Medical Officer has hailed a finding that steroid drug dexamethasone can save the lives of those severely ill with COVID-19 as the most important trial result so far.
The news: Global internet freedom has declined for the 10th year in a row as governments use the coronavirus pandemic as cover to restrict people's rights, according to a report by the think tank Freedom House. Its researchers assessed 65 countries, accounting for 87% of internet users worldwide. The report covers the period from June 2019 to May 2020, but some key changes took place when the pandemic struck. The pandemic effect: In at least 20 countries, the pandemic was cited as a reason to introduce sweeping new restrictions on speech and arrest online critics. In 28, governments blocked websites or forced outlets, users, or platforms to censor information in order to suppress critical reporting, unfavorable health statistics, or other content related to the coronavirus.