• A first look at privacy analysis of COVID-19 contact tracing mobile applications

      Azad, Muhammad Ajmal; Arshad, Junaid; Akmal, Syed Muhammad Ali; Riaz, Farhan; Abdullah, Sidrah; Imran, Muhammad; Ahmad, Farhan; Birmingham CIty University; NED University; NUST UNiversity; et al. (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), 2020-09-17)
      Today’s smartphones are equipped with a large number of powerful value-added sensors and features such as a low power Bluetooth sensor, powerful embedded sensors such as the digital compass, accelerometer, GPS sensors, Wi-Fi capabilities, microphone, humidity sensors, health tracking sensors, and a camera, etc. These value-added sensors have revolutionized the lives of the human being in many ways such, as tracking the health of the patients and movement of doctors, tracking employees movement in large manufacturing units, and monitoring the environment, etc. These embedded sensors could also be used for large-scale personal, group, and community sensing applications especially tracing the spread of certain diseases. Governments and regulators are turning to use these features to trace the people thought to have symptoms of certain diseases or virus e.g. COVID-19. The outbreak of COVID-19 in December 2019, has seen a surge of the mobile applications for tracing, tracking and isolating the persons showing COVID-19 symptoms to limit the spread of disease to the larger community. The use of embedded sensors could disclose private information of the users thus potentially bring threat to the privacy and security of users. In this paper, we analyzed a large set of smartphone applications that have been designed to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus and bring the people back to normal life. Specifically, we have analyzed what type of permission these smartphone apps require, whether these permissions are necessary for the track and trace, how data from the user devices is transported to the analytic center, and analyzing the security measures these apps have deployed to ensure the privacy and security of users.