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QR code registration is meant to enable real-name registration for public transportation, as is already required for airplanes and trains, said Tencent’s Song Lingyun. (Picture: Tencent)

Tencent rolls out QR code that tracks potential Covid-19 carriers on public transportation

China has been using big data to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

As a result of the Covid-19 epidemic, Tencent is rolling out a QR code system on WeChat, China’s largest social network, to track people using public transportation. Passengers entering a bus, subway or taxi can submit their information through Tencent’s "ride registration code" and the system will synchronize their real names with the vehicle’s license plate, boarding time and other information. When a passenger is discovered to have been infected, other passengers who might have been exposed will get a message warning them.

Tencent’s announcement didn’t specify whether authorities will be informed, but the scheme has support from the government. The "ride registration code" already covers public transportation and taxis in 13 cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, covering a population of 83 million people, Tencent said.
The system is one of the many ways China has been using big data to track potential coronavirus carriers. Meituan Dianping has a similar system in several Chinese cities, and Alipay introduced a controversial QR health code assigning people red, yellow and green colors that determine whether citizens can freely move around a city. To track the virus, some cities are also introducing real-name registration for certain public spaces,  including cinemas.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)

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