While all countries of the world strive to limit the spread of the Coronavirus, a number of dictatorial regimes exploit this pandemic event to impose more control over citizens, including the Saudi regime.
The Saudi Ministry of Health issued a circular to all the emirates of the regions compelling citizens to download the “Tawakulna” application to allow them to enter public facilities and travel between cities and governorates. This is the second government-approved application to limit the spread of the virus and enhance citizens’ commitment to take precautionary measures, after the issuance of the “Tatman” application.
Great concerns are rising as to the Saudi authorities’ exploitation of this pandemic to spy on citizens, especially those who oppose them using these two applications.
These applications enable the government to monitor the movement of citizens, times of using their phones, and the programs they use, including messages, pictures, location, and contacts, which is information that is not safe to be used by the dictatorial regime of Saudi Arabia.
According to experts, 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 direct permission for the authorities to see the personal life of citizens by monitoring their movements and analyzing their data in a way that may them.
The reason for the lack of trust in the intentions of the Saudi regime is due to similar previous violations related to espionage and piracy, as the Saudi authorities have previously been accused of using some Saudi employees inside “Twitter” to obtain information about the activities of opponents abroad, and it is also likely that Jamal Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and was killed after hacking his account and monitoring his movements. Furthermore, the head of the Saudi regime himself is accused of practicing this grave violation after his involvement in hacking the phone of “Jeff Bezos”, founder of 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 in the US to monitor their movements and to spy on them.
According to the newspaper, one of its sources is one of those people who have been subjected to such a violation. He showed the newspapers millions of secret tracking requests sent from Saudi Arabia, since November 2019, which help reveal security holes in the global text messaging system “SS7”. The newspaper also indicated that Saudi Arabia sent more than two million tracking requests to its citizens between November 1, 2019, and March 1, 2020.
It is noteworthy that this was not the first time that government decisions sparked widespread controversy among Saudi activists, as the state-owned Saudi Telecom Company (STC) requested months ago customers to link the electronic wallet “STC PAY” to Twitter under the pretext of providing better services to its customers without further explanation.
This move was interpreted by activists as an attempt to gain access to their real information and provide the authorities with it, and here is the danger, which puts activists in danger.
In this regard, experts advise Saudi citizens to use two devices, 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, by using a phone for government applications and another for personal use.