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GEORGE TOWN, Dec 5 ― Social media applications such as Facebook, Telegram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram require more permissions for access rights to information on your smartphone compared to MySejahtera, a cyber security expert said.
Fong Choong Fook said these social media apps are more intrusive when compared with MySejahtera, amid renewed concerns about privacy and personal data being harvested by the app.
The Chief Executive Officer of LGMS, a cyber security testing firm, said apps like Facebook and WhatsApp required 56 permissions for access rights on a mobile phone.
“The MySejahtera app only required 16 permissions and the permissions were for features such as location and to make calls, these are part of the contact tracing feature of the app,” he said in an interview with Malay Mail recently.
In comparison, he said social media apps required permission for access to the phone's contact list, to read the phone's messages, to send messages through SMS, to control the phone GPS, to control the phone setting, to use the microphone and many other functions.
“These are three times more intrusive if compared to the MySejahtera app,” he said.
He said recent claims that the MySejahtera app was being used by the government to spy on the people based on the permissions it required were clearly fear mongering.
“The people are already allowing these permissions and more on other apps so it is unfair to say MySejahtera was being used to spy on the people,” he said.
He said such claims may instead trigger distrust and lead people into deleting MySejahtera app which would only undermine the government's efforts in tracing Covid-19 infections.
“When such a situation comes into the picture, we will have a far less effective way to detect and control the spread of Covid-19,” he said.
Fong conceded that there is a need for the government to be more transparent about how the government utilise the data collected through MySejahtera.
“With high transparency, I believe that this will boost the adoption of MySejahtera application and help the government drive a more effective tracing operation,” he said.
He stressed that the public need to accept that contact tracing will be a part of their daily life now in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He pointed out that using the app is the most effective way for the authorities to contact a person who may have been exposed to a positive case as compared to the conventional paper and pen.
“While this is the least efficient way for authority to trace you, you are also cutting yourself out from being contacted by the authority in case of emergency,” he said.
He advised those who are worried about the privacy of their data to delete WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Telegram and other social media apps from their mobile devices.
He said these applications have more access requests that users may or may not approve.
LGMS offers cyber security testing services and Fong is also an adviser for TÜV Austria Cyber Security Laboratory.
Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah was forced to assure the public last month that MySejahtera app will not be used to track those who flee from an area under a movement control order (MCO), following the police’s assertion of planning to do so.
MoH also then said that Malaysians need not fear their personal details in the MySejahtera app used to record their visits to shops and such will be misused, as they are fully owned by the Health Ministry of Malaysia and supervised by the National Cyber Security Agency and the National Security Council.