Muna Al-Fuzai

Kuwait has begun blocking caller ID apps for violating privacy of individuals. The Communications and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA) said such apps violate a person’s privacy because they access his private information and threaten people’s security.

These apps have also led to family disputes and bank thefts. The information technology security department explained that when the user installs a caller ID application, he allows the app to access all information on his phone such as phone numbers and addresses.

I am not a regular user of mobile caller ID applications except for Truecaller, which I rarely use and don’t even know if it is included in this new decision or not. But I personally don’t think blocking smartphone apps is the solution to family problems and bank thefts that may arise due to phone apps. Smartphones have made it easier for people to communicate with other users via email and social networks, but security experts have warned that user privacy can be compromised by information that a user may think is safe and cannot be retrieved from his phone.

Personal data can mean a lot of info such as first and last name, email address, location and many other bits of information. When anyone wants to download an app, he is usually asked to give his permission to the policy of the app, which means it may collect and share personal data for marketing purposes or otherwise. So we have the choice to agree or not. But, as usual, when we download an app, we just click “Yes” or “Agree” to everything without going through the details of what we have agreed to! When you agree to a privacy policy, you will be under the obligation of the policy’s terms.

While telecommunication companies have the right to collect data, users must agree to the privacy terms of these networks, which often include items that justify collecting information about users on the grounds that they use them to improve their experience and services, noting that many users usually agree to these terms without reading them.

So my question is – do I need a privacy policy for my mobile app? And what is the purpose of storing and sharing personal data? This year, Google was embarrassed by reports of unexpected errors concerning data privacy and privacy of users. One suggestion was that the user should revoke the permissions granted to any external application to access the profile of his or her account. This topic is still a subject of controversy and global debate, which I don’t think will end soon.

I think it’s important to define the concept of privacy regarding smartphones and digital media. It is known that users of smartphone applications can control the feature of geographical location and turn it on or off as desired, but it is still possible to obtain data through telecommunication companies. This means there is no absolute privacy when it comes to smartphones, and perhaps blocking some mobile apps in Kuwait and having strict conditions concerning privacy of individuals may limit the existence of such applications.

But the concept of personal privacy is a difficult one in this open era of the Internet and social media. The Al-Arab newspaper published a report on the privacy of smartphone users and mentioned that a company specialized in information security has revealed that more than 28,000 smartphone applications violate user privacy by retaining personal information. According to the report, hackers can access users’ personal information very easily. I think technology has not done enough to safeguard user privacy even in educating the user about what information is private and personal and what is not.

By Muna Al-Fuzai