Cambodia has defended the use of the "Stop Covid" QR Code system to contain Covid-19, shrugging off concerns raised by two UN special rapporteurs over its "infringement on the rights to privacy".
In a letter dated May 7 to the UN Human Rights Council through the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva and made public on May 20, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications said the "Stop Covid” QR code was used solely to prevent the virus from spreading into the community.
Rhona Smith, special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia, and Tlaleng Mofokeng, special rapporteur on the right to health, on March 18 wrote a joint letter seeking response from Cambodia on the use of the system. They expressed concerns that it would violate privacy and be used for the wrong purposes.
“Please provide information on steps taken or to be taken by Your Excellency’s Government to ensure that the right to privacy and data of individuals will be protected.
“Please explain how the decision by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications is necessary and proportionate,” they said in the letter.
The ministry said the "Stop Covid” QR code was on a voluntary basis and no one has been punished for not using it. The system, it said, was adopted as 77 per cent of the 21 million mobile phone service subscribers in Cambodia use smartphones.
The ministry said the “Stop Covid” QR code system enabled the authorities to carry out contact tracing, help individuals who have been exposed to Covid-19 to self-quarantine, get tested and treated timely to prevent the virus spreading.
“'Stop Covid-19' is necessary and proportionate to the pursuance of legitimate aims, which include the protection of public health as well as public safety, economic wellbeing of the country, and the rights and freedom of others,” the ministry said.
Information collected through the Stop Covid-19 system is not for other purposes than combating Covid-19.
The ministry said the data can be accessed only by the Committee to Combat Covid-19 and is automatically deleted between 28 and 90 days.
The ministry said the data is securely stored and encrypted.