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6 Apr 2021

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Human Rights Watch

Cambodia: HRW call on govt. to cease practices of 'Stop COVID-19' QR code system as it violates right to privacy

"Cambodia: ‘Stop Covid-19’ System Raises Privacy Concerns", 6 April 2021

The Cambodian government’s “Stop Covid-19” QR Code system raises serious privacy and other human rights concerns, Human Rights Watch said ... The authorities should use less-rights-intrusive measures to contain and prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

…, Cambodia’s Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and Ministry of Health initiated a QR Code system that aims to assist with contact tracing of new Covid-19 cases, which have recently increased. The ministries should publicly explain how the data collected through the QR Code system is used, who has access to the data and for what purpose, the measures taken to secure the data, and the period for which the data is stored.

“Cambodia’s QR Code system is ripe for rights abuses because it lacks privacy protections for personal data,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “These concerns are heightened by the government’s stepped-up online surveillance of Cambodians since the outset of the pandemic, putting government critics and activists at greater risk.”

… Creating a log of people’s locations reveals sensitive insights about their identity, location, behavior, associations, and activities that infringe on the right to privacy, adding to the government’s existing intrusive surveillance practices, Human Rights Watch said.

Some business owners told Human Rights Watch that they have strictly enforced the QR Code system out of fear of being deemed non-compliant with government-imposed measures. This could make them subject to sanctions such as under the recently passed Law on Measures to Prevent the Spread of Covid-19 and other Serious, Dangerous and Contagious Diseases, which introduced disproportionate criminal penalties of up to 20 years in prison and fines…

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