Chinese city plans to turn coronavirus app into permanent health tracker
Versions of the app have been used across mainland China. It displays a QR code with an individual’s virus status, which can be used to determine the extent to which the individual is allowed to move about.
Authorities in the city of Hangzhou, a tech hub where the app was first launched, have announced they will seek to launch a broader version to monitor people’s health.
An individual’s status would be colour-coded and scored out of 100 based on medical records, physical test results, levels of activity and other lifestyle choices such as smoking.
According to Chinese media reports, Hangzhou authorities plan to have the app ready by the end of next month. The city’s health commission said the proposed system would be a “firewall to enhance people’s health and immunity” after the pandemic.
Although apps used during the outbreak have raised concerns about privacy and a lack of transparency in how they operate, Chinese people generally appear to have accepted them as necessary.
However, the push to make a permanent version appears to have crossed a line for some. “Outside of the epidemic periods, it has strong privacy issues,” said one commenter on a news article posted to Weibo.
Another said: “The boundary between personal health and public health should be reflected. The health code is for others to read. Others have no right to read your personal health reports.”
The existing apps have run on the ubiquitous platforms Alipay and WeChat, developed for the Chinese government. One commenter said they would delete Alipay from their phone if the app became permanent.
Others expressed fear it would be used by insurance companies for tiered pricing, or by employers to screen job applicants.
Last week’s annual meeting of the Chinese Communist party heard calls from delegates to strengthen oversight of security breaches. There were also calls for the National People’s Congress to speed up the introduction of data protection laws in response to the massive amounts of information collected on Chinese citizens during the pandemic.
“Given the data explosion, the demand for data security has become increasingly urgent,” said Wei Ming, a deputy to the congress and chairman and general manager of China Mobile’s Guangdong branch.