Soon after the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global health crisis, the governments of many countries rushed to take precautionary measures against the disease. One such measure taken by many countries was virus-tracking applications.
Some countries developed their own applications, while others endorsed applications developed by independent app developers. Regardless, as time passed, various security and privacy flaws were reported in these smartphone applications.
One such country which was heavily affected by this issue was Norway. Earlier this year, Norway released a coronavirus-tracing application to track patients and alert anyone who came in close contact with them.
At the time of release, the Prime Minister of Norway was quite optimistic about this app. She said in a statement that coronavirus could be tracked and stopped, and multiple lives could be saved if enough people downloaded the application.
Within two weeks, nearly one in five adults was using the app. However, what was meant to protect people soon turned into a security threat that could affect thousands of Norwegians and undermine their trust in the government.
As researchers and data protection authorities reported security risks attached to the smartphone app, the Norwegian government was forced to ban it on June 15th. According to researchers, Norway did not have a lot of coronavirus cases at the time and the application was collecting data from far too many people, raising some serious security concerns.
Norway was not alone in this. In mid-June, the UK was also forced to abandon the development of its virus-tracking application after concerns were raised.
Similarly, Qatar had to update its application with security patches after Amnesty International pointed out some flaws. India was another victim of this issue when it was identified that its virus tracking application could leak a user’s exact location.
These security concerns are not limited to flaws in smartphone apps. Serious concerns have emerged as certain companies have started to force their workers to wear wristbands that track them.
Human rights activists have voiced their concerns by saying that these approaches are putting millions of people at risk of stalking, identity theft, and forced tracking. Governments across the world have started to rethink their approach to tracking the deadly virus.