Beijing rolls out colour-coded QR system for coronavirus tracking despite concerns over privacy, inaccurate ratings
- Beijing residents will be assigned coloured QR codes, with only those with green codes being able to move around the city freely
- The system, which has been rolled out in more than 100 cities across the country, has been criticised for a lack of transparency and potential mislabelling
China’s capital city has joined a national initiative to assign residents coloured QR codes that determine whether they have to be quarantined, despite concerns of mislabelling and privacy leaks.
In Beijing, the mini-program can be accessed both through Alipay and Tencent’s ubiquitous app WeChat. Users can obtain their codes by entering their name, national identity number and registering with facial recognition.
A green code shows the user is not under quarantine and can move around the city freely, but those with yellow and red codes need to quarantine themselves at home or undergo supervised quarantine respectively. The status of users’ colour codes is refreshed at midnight daily.
From next week, the program will also allow users to check the health codes of others by entering their identity numbers, according to a Xinhua report. This is to address the issue of people who do not have smartphones, such as the elderly or young children, Pan Feng, deputy chief of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Economy and Information Technology, said at a press conference on Sunday.
Pan added that the programme would allow foreigners to check on their colour status using documentation aside from Chinese identification numbers “as soon as possible”.
However, the rush to scoop up even more data to fight the outbreak has led to privacy breaches, especially for residents in the epicentre of Wuhan, some of whom had their names, addresses, daily movements and other personal data leaked on the internet amid the fear brought on by the spread of the disease.
Pan said at the press conference that data will only be stored for the same day, and the health code on the phone will only show users’ family names and the first and last two digits of their identification numbers.
“All the privacy information will be kept in the municipal government of Beijing and will be used only for epidemic prevention, and we will balance the use of data with data protection,” he said.
China’s national government service platform also separately launched a QR code system via WeChat last week that allows users to register their information and generate a code to show their health condition.
The code is needed for access to some community facilities and office buildings, and has been accessed over 400 million times, according to a Xinhua report on Sunday.
The South China Morning Post is owned by Alibaba Group, an affiliate of Ant Financial.
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