Hangzhou could permanently adopt COVID-19 contact-tracing app

Pierluigi Paganini May 26, 2020

The City of Hangzhou is planning to make a contact tracing system developed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic permanent for its citizens.

Hangzhou, one of the major tech hubs in China, is planning to permanently use the tracking system developed to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

The city’s health commission declared that the permanent version of the contact tracing system would be a “‘firewall’ to enhance people’s health and immunity” after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The contact tracing app was developed by Tencent and Alibaba and is mandatory, it implements a “triage” system based on the travel history of the citizen.

The app is currently mandatory and assigns users green, yellow, or red status. Residents who visited COVID-19 hot spots or that were in contact with infected individuals, would be given a red code and be asked to quarantine for 14 days. Residents in good health status and had no contact with infected individuals cases are given a green code and could move without any restriction around the city.

COVID-19 contact tracing system

The app is already used by one billion people and the codes it generates have been scanned more than nine billion times.

“According to Qiu Yuepeng, vice president of Tencent and President of Tencent Cloud, since the official version of the health code was launched on February 9, Tencent’s health code has covered more than 20 provinces and more than 400 cities and counties in the country, covering more than 1 billion people.” reads the post published by Tencent. “The total number of visits exceeded 26 billion, and the cumulative number of code visits exceeded 9 billion.”

The Hangzhou’s Health Commission aims to permanently use the system that would assign users a health score ranging from 0 to 100 based on different factors, such as their medical records, physical examinations, and habits (e.g. steps they walk, or hours they sleep or make sport daily).

Clearly privacy advocates fear that the contact tracing system could improve the dragnet surveillance implemented by the Chinese government to monitor its citizens.

Facial recognition technology is widely adopted in China where the government already uses the social credit system to monitor citizen’s online behaviour and assigns a “citizen score.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – COVID-19, contact tracing system)

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