Tech & Coronavirus: China Launches ‘Close Contact Detector’ App To Halt Outbreak
China has taken the extraordinary step of launching an app that allows people to check whether they have been at risk of contacting the potentially deadly coronavirus.
The ‘close contact detector’ informs users if they have been near a person who has been confirmed or suspected of being infected with the virus.
People identified as being at risk have been advised to stay at home and inform local authorities. Meanwhile, bizarre footage has surfaced of Chinese drones flying around impacted areas, demanding individuals go back home if they are spotted outside.
The app’s technology further shines a light on the Chinese government’s close surveillance on its population.
To make an inquiry, users scan a Quick Response (QR) code on their smartphones using apps like the social media platform WeChat.
After the app is registered with a phone number, users are told to enter their name and ID number. Every registered number can then be used to check the status of up to three other ID numbers.
The app was developed in joint by government departments and the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation. It was supposed by data from health and transport authorities, including the state-run news agency Xinhua, according to the BBC.
It is widely known that the Chinese government conducts high levels of surveillance on its population, with recent controversial methods being AI technology in street cameras.
But experts in the field suggest, in this case at least, the app will not be viewed as controversial within the country.
Hong Kong-based tech lawyer Carolyn Bigg at the law firm DLA Piper told the network: ‘In China, and across Asia, data is not seen as something to be locked down, it’s something that can be used. Provided it’s done in a transparent way, with consent where needed.’
‘From a Chinese perspective this is a really useful service for people… It’s a really powerful tool that really shows the power of data being used for good.’
The Chinese government has defined ‘close contact’ as going near to, with no effective protection, confirmed, suspected or mild cases of the virus while the person was still infected – regardless of whether they were showing symptoms at the time.