Ehteraz app doesn’t vi­o­late user pri­vacy: MoPH of­fi­cial

Qatar Tribune - - Front Page -

THE re­cently launched Ehteraz app seeks to pro­tect the com­mu­nity from coro­n­avirus (COVID-19) in­fec­tions and strengthen pre­ven­tive mea­sures to limit the spread of the virus in Qatar, a top Min­istry of Public Health (MoPH) of­fi­cial has said.

Ehteraz app does not vi­o­late the pri­vacy of in­di­vid­u­als, he added. “We con­firm that all user data on Ehteraz app is com­pletely con­fi­den­tial and is only ac­ces­si­ble to rel­e­vant, spe­cialised teams when nec­es­sary,” Sheikh Dr Mo­hammed bin Ha­mad al Thani, Di­rec­tor of the Public Health De­part­ment at the MoPH, said.

He said the app seeks to pro­tect so­ci­ety from COVID-19 in­fec­tions by alert­ing peo­ple who have come in con­tact with a per­son who has been in­fected.

“When some­one is di­ag­nosed with COVID-19, every per­son with the Ehteraz app that they have re­cently been in con­tact with re­ceive an alert to go to the health cen­ter to be checked,” he said.

The app also pro­vides the lat­est, of­fi­cial updates and sta­tis­tics in a sim­ple, con­cise way. It also has a fea­ture to no­tify users of the pre­cau­tion­ary in­struc­tions is­sued by the of­fi­cial au­thor­i­ties in the coun­try, he pointed out.

RE­GARD­ING how the app can help to trace those iso­lat­ing at home or under quar­an­tine, he said when in­di­vid­u­als under quar­an­tine, be it at home, a ho­tel or in quar­an­tine fa­cil­i­ties, leave the quar­an­tine with­out the knowl­edge of rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties, the user re­ceives an alert through the app and is con­tacted by the Min­istry of Public Health to en­quire about rea­sons of leav­ing quar­an­tine and then the nec­es­sary steps are taken.

On the con­fi­den­tial­ity of the data in the app, he said all user data on Ehteraz app is com­pletely con­fi­den­tial. “Per­mis­sion to ac­cess photos and files may ap­pear au­to­mat­i­cally on some An­droid phones. It’s a com­mon per­mis­sion on An­droid phones for an app that needs ac­cess to cer­tain phone files,” he said.

He pointed out that Ehteraz needs this ac­cess to en­sure the user’s data re­mains com­pletely con­fi­den­tial and not tam­pered with or other­wise com­pro­mised.

This data also pro­vides an im­por­tant, tem­po­rary, re­dun­dancy in the event of con­nec­tiv­ity in­ter­rup­tion by pro­vid­ing lo­ca­tion data gath­ered dur­ing the in­ter­rup­tion to en­sure users are pro­vided with the cor­rect sta­tus and in­for­ma­tion, he said.

Re­gard­ing the Blue­tooth fea­ture, he said through lo­ca­tion ser­vices, it is pos­si­ble to de­ter­mine the lo­ca­tion of the user when con­tact­ing an in­fected per­son, and to know whether this lo­ca­tion is a public place such as food stores or any other public lo­ca­tion to limit the spread of the virus.

Also, the Blue­tooth fea­ture al­lows the app to ac­cu­rately de­ter­mine the dis­tance be­tween users’ phones and iden­tify whether the con­tact has been within the safe, 2-me­tre dis­tance or more.

Through turn­ing on these two fea­tures, rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties have ac­cess to the needed, ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion to trace trans­mis­sion in a bet­ter way.

The of­fi­cial said the data pro­vided to the app is only used by rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties for med­i­cal and health rea­sons and is not cap­tured or used for any other pur­poses.

The app, he said, op­er­ates under the strictest pri­vacy and data re­ten­tion poli­cies, to en­sure that any data shared is cor­rectly used. The use is gov­erned by the high­est in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and Qatar’s pri­vacy and health laws. Spe­cific de­tails are men­tioned in the terms and con­di­tions and the pri­vacy pol­icy of the app.

On why the app re­quires mul­ti­ple per­mis­sions, and why it is al­ways run­ning - even when users aren’t us­ing their phone, he clar­i­fied that Ehteraz app re­quires per­mis­sions in or­der to ac­cess parts of your phone that en­able it to run in the back­ground, even when the app is not in use.

It is im­por­tant that the app is al­ways run­ning in or­der to ac­cu­rately record in­ter­ac­tions with other users and cor­rectly alert you if you have come in con­tact with an in­fected per­son. It can urge you to main­tain so­cial dis­tanc­ing and can pro­vide vi­tal in­for­ma­tion that will let you know when you should get tested or en­ter quar­an­tine, he pointed out.

Sheikh Dr Mo­hammed bin Ha­mad al Thani.

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