Virtual Event: Threat Detection and Incident Response Summit - Watch Sessions
Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Data Protection

‘Add Photo’ Feature on Turkey’s Virus App Sparks Alarm

Turkey’s coronavirus tracking app is facing fire from privacy advocates for adding a feature allowing users to report social distancing rule violations, with the option to send photos.

Critics say the function breaches civil liberties and promotes a “culture of denunciation”.

Turkey’s coronavirus tracking app is facing fire from privacy advocates for adding a feature allowing users to report social distancing rule violations, with the option to send photos.

Critics say the function breaches civil liberties and promotes a “culture of denunciation”.

Turkish officials counter that the measure is needed to save lives and does not violate laws protecting individual rights.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said the health ministry’s entire pandemic tracking system — which includes the app — made “us even stronger against the virus”.

In April, the health ministry launched a phone app called “Hayat Eve Sigar” (Life Fits Into Home) that helps people monitor confirmed virus cases, showing the risk levels and infection rates in specific neighbourhoods.

It also offers information about nearby hospitals, pharmacies, supermarkets and public transport stops.

One of its latest features, added this week, allows users to report rule violations in places such as restaurants and cafes, with an ultimate goal of helping control the spread of the virus, which has claimed over 6,000 lives in Turkey.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

“Help control the virus by reporting rule violations that you encounter,” a message on the app says above an “add photo” function and a line for the corresponding street address.

– ‘Culture of denunciation’ –

Critics see the new feature as a threat that exposes Turks to government agencies without their consent and makes people feel unsafe.

“This system lacks credibility,” said Faruk Cayir, a lawyer and president of Turkey’s Alternative Informatics Association on cyber rights and online censorship.

He said the information stored in the app was being shared with other government agencies, including the interior ministry and even private travel companies.

“The health ministry has not clearly said how long it will be storing data. It only said it was limited to the pandemic period. It has not provided a precise deadline,” he told AFP.

Cayir argued that reporting violations with photos “would encourage a culture of denunciation, the examples of which have already been seen in Turkey”.

Turkey has officially registered almost 260,000 virus infections and 6,139 deaths.

The number of daily new cases went up above 1,000 in early August and has yet to go back down.

The health ministry developed the app in cooperation with the Turkey’s mobile phone operators and the government’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK).

Turks are advised to download the app so that security forces are informed when infected people leave their homes in defiance of warnings, with the possibility of criminal prosecution.

Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher, said the pandemic was confronting governments with difficult choices.

“Governments have an obligation to protect people’s health. This is a human rights issue,” Gardner told AFP.

“It has also been used as an excuse by governments around the world to take away people’s rights or increase their own powers.”

He said maintaining social distancing rules was important to prevent the spread and protect people’s health.

“It’s much better that the authorities address these issues instead of people taking the law into their own hands,” he said..

“There should be a way to ensure that people’s health is protected and protect people’s privacy and security at the same time.”

Related: Turkey Fines Facebook for Breach of Data Protection Laws

Related: Turkish Hackers Target Greek Government Websites, Stock Exchange

Written By

AFP 2023

Click to comment

Daily Briefing Newsletter

Subscribe to the SecurityWeek Email Briefing to stay informed on the latest threats, trends, and technology, along with insightful columns from industry experts.

SecurityWeek’s Threat Detection and Incident Response Summit brings together security practitioners from around the world to share war stories on breaches, APT attacks and threat intelligence.


Securityweek’s CISO Forum will address issues and challenges that are top of mind for today’s security leaders and what the future looks like as chief defenders of the enterprise.


Expert Insights

Related Content

Application Security

Cycode, a startup that provides solutions for protecting software source code, emerged from stealth mode on Tuesday with $4.6 million in seed funding.

Data Protection

The cryptopocalypse is the point at which quantum computing becomes powerful enough to use Shor’s algorithm to crack PKI encryption.

Artificial Intelligence

The CRYSTALS-Kyber public-key encryption and key encapsulation mechanism recommended by NIST for post-quantum cryptography has been broken using AI combined with side channel attacks.


No one combatting cybercrime knows everything, but everyone in the battle has some intelligence to contribute to the larger knowledge base.


The three primary drivers for cyber regulations are voter privacy, the economy, and national security – with the complication that the first is often...


The FBI dismantled the network of the prolific Hive ransomware gang and seized infrastructure in Los Angeles that was used for the operation.

Cybersecurity Funding

Los Gatos, Calif-based data protection and privacy firm Titaniam has raised $6 million seed funding from Refinery Ventures, with participation from Fusion Fund, Shasta...

Application Security

Fortinet on Monday issued an emergency patch to cover a severe vulnerability in its FortiOS SSL-VPN product, warning that hackers have already exploited the...