In the context of combating the Coronavirus, the Saudi Ministry of Health issued a circular to all regions in the Kingdom to require citizens to download “Tawakkalna” application to allow them to enter public facilities and move between cities and governorates.
This would be the second government-approved application, after “Tetamman” application to limit the spread of the virus and enhance citizens’ commitment to the precautionary procedures.
“Tetamman” and “Tawakkalna”!
The Saudi authorities said that these two applications would help authorities to limit the spread of the virus and deal with the crisis more professionally after enhancing the values of cooperation between the authorities and citizens through these applications. It would also make it easier for the authorities to constantly monitor the health status, especially the ill and suspected ones.
In fact, the two applications raised great concerns related to the Saudi authorities’ manipulation of the pandemic status to spy on citizens, especially the opponents, as these applications enable the government to monitor the movement of citizens and their usage of their mobile phones, the programs they use, all data, messages, pictures, location and contacts.
According to experts and technicians, the use of these applications developed by the National Information Center poses a high risk to the lives and safety of citizens, as activating these applications is considered as a direct permission for the authorities to view the personal lives of citizens by monitoring their movements and analyzing their data in a way that may cause great harm to them at a later time.
This was not the first time that government decisions sparked widespread controversy among Saudi activists.
Months ago, the state-owned Saudi Telecom Company (STC) asked customers to link the electronic wallet “STC Pay” to Twitter under the pretext of providing better services to its customers. This step was considered by activists as an attempt to access activists’ real information, and feed the authorities with it to harass them and subject them to persecution.
The lack of trust in the government’s actions goes back to similar violations related to espionage and piracy.
The Saudi authorities have been previously accused of using Saudi employees in Twitter to have access to oppositions’ activities abroad.
It is also likely that Jamal Khashoggi was lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and killed after hacking his account and monitoring his movements.
Furthermore, the head of the Saudi regime itself is accused of practicing the same grave violation after it was revealed that he was involved in hacking the phone of “Jeff Bezos”, founder of the Amazon and owner of the Washington Post.
Last March, the Guardian revealed that the Saudi regime is trying to exploit a loophole in the international mobile phone network to track its citizens who are in the US in order to monitor their movements and spy on them.
According to a source of the newspaper -who had been subjected to monitoring- he revealed millions of secret tracking requests sent from Saudi Arabia, since November 2019. These requests help expose the security holes in the global text messaging system “SS7”.
The Kingdom sent more than two million tracking requests to its citizens between November 1, 2019, and March 1, 2020.
In this regard, experts advised Saudi citizens to use two phones in order to preserve their privacy, protect their phones from piracy, and protect their personal data from any illegal use by the system; keeping one phone for government and another for personal use.
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