To manage the coronavirus epidemic, China is requiring citizens to use software on their smartphones to determine whether they should be quarantined or allowed into public spaces—but an analysis in The New York Times found that the underlying code seems to share information with the police.
Citizens sign up via the Alipay digital wallet app, then receive a color code denoting their health status. An accompanying quick-response code allows or disallows users to travel freely, according to the color code. Once a user grants the software access to personal data, a program component transmits their location, city name, and an identifying code number to a server.
The developers of the Alipay Health Code said the software uses big data to rate an individual’s contagion risk, while critics warn the system establishes a troubling precedent for automated social control through mass surveillance.