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Zomato

A hacker has stolen the names and email addresses of 17 million Zomato users around the world, the restaurant and food delivery app has announced.

The massive data breach also included encrypted passwords, but no financial information, the India-based firm’s chief technology officer Gunjan Patidar said in a statement.

Zomato boasts 120 million monthly users and operates in 24 countries, including Qatar.

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It is unclear how many of Qatar’s roughly 200,000 monthly users were affected. Officials asked by Doha News declined to comment about this.

However, in an email, Qatar country manager Amith Sequeira said, “Our users’ data is safe and secure, now. We will share an official statement along with our learnings, shortly.”

Securing information

Following the breach, the hacker apparently put the user data up for sale online. But he/she then took it down after speaking to Zomato reps, Patidar said.

Because the majority of users have linked their Zomato accounts to Facebook and Google logins, they should not be affected by the hack, he added.

Some 6.6 million users with standalone accounts however have been sent emails to reset their passwords.

The company has now pledged to plug its security vulnerabilities and work with the “ethical hacker community” to ensure the app remains a safe space for all users.

“There’s no need to panic,” Patidar said.

Were you affected by the hack? Thoughts?

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As Qatar celebrates the opening of its first World Cup stadium today, rights group Amnesty International is warning officials to proceed with caution.

The group had uncovered human rights violations by contractors involved in Khalifa International Stadium renovations last year.

At the time, it stated that more than 100 expats had their passports confiscated and salary payments delayed.

Construction workers at the Khalifa Stadium

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Khalifa Stadium renovations for illustrative purposes only.

A year later, an independent audit commissioned by World Cup organizers found many contractors are continuing to work their staff too hard.

For its part, tournament organizers said at the time that “while the findings clearly state there are challenges, they also demonstrate our continued commitment to this process. We will do everything necessary to ensure the issues identified are dealt with promptly.”

‘Urgent rethink’ needed

But in a statement yesterday, Amnesty urged more drastic action, raising the issue of Qatar’s restrictive labor laws.

James Lynch, deputy director of Amnesty’s Global Issues program, said:

“Migrant workers at Khalifa International Stadium have already suffered the consequences of Qatar and FIFA’s failure to genuinely address the dangers of Qatar’s sponsorship system.

An urgent rethink is needed to prevent labour abuse becoming the legacy of the 2022 World Cup.”

Currently, about 10,000 people are working on World Cup projects in Qatar. That number is expected to surge to a peak of 36,000 workers by next year.

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Notably, this is just a fraction of Qatar’s labor force, and many of these employees have far more favorable working and living conditions than their peers who work for smaller companies.

However, authorities are under pressure to ensure the rights of all workers in the run-up to 2022.

Deaths

One litmus test for proper working and living conditions has been the fatality rate of World Cup employees.

So far, two people have died while working on stadium sites, including a British man who fell to his death at Khalifa Stadium.

However, earlier this month an Indian carpenter died of a heart attack he suffered shortly after leaving the stadium site, Reuters reports.

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He is at least the fourth World Cup employee to have died of cardiac arrest in the past year and a half, the newswire states.

More should be done to find out whether these deaths are related to working conditions, rights groups have argued.

Speaking to Reuters yesterday, Gulf labor researcher Mustafa Qadri said:

“Workers dying suddenly from heart attacks is something we hear about often, the causes are not always clear.

But we’re moving now into the hottest time of the year when the risk of fatality increases. When a worker dies, Qatar needs to get to the bottom of what happened. People’s lives are in danger.”

Thoughts?

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Qatar’s Emir has signed off on plans to revamp the country’s independent school system, a move that will affect more than 100,000 school children.

Law No. 9 of 2017 will take a more centralized approach to education by forming a public school system for local children.

The legislation was approved by the Cabinet late last year.

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It aims to improve the quality of education for the “young generation in a way that helps enhance creativity and achieve scientific excellence,” Gulf Times reports.

The new school system will be run by Qatar’s education ministry.

It will serve as the authority regarding curriculum, staffing, school calendars, fees and disciplinary action, according to the law.

The ministry will also have a say in setting tuition costs and admission requirements for non-Qatari children, among other issues.

Out with the old

Currently, government-funded independent schools operate with more autonomy.

This has been the case for over a decade, since Qatar adopted a recommendation from the RAND Corp. to mimic a charter school system.

Ministry of Education & Higher Education

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Under that plan, independent schools have been free to apply more “student-centered teaching methods” and are regularly audited by the government to ensure they are up to standards.

Parents have also been allowed to choose the school that best meets their child’s needs.

But while standardized test scores are improving, Qatar’s students still remain well below the global average when it comes to math, reading and science.

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The dismal figures come at a time when the country is working to diversify its economy away from oil and gas.

Education is now a top priority, and is expected to be listed high up on Qatar’s upcoming five-year plan.

Thoughts?