China has been dealing with a massive outbreak of coronavirus for over a month now. With no cure in sight, China is focussing its efforts towards preventing the virus from spreading. The latest strategy is report the implementation of a ‘close contact detector' that informs users if they have come in close contact with someone who has been infected by the virus or is suspected of carrying the virus. The detector can be used via apps like Alipay, QQ, and WeChat.
According to a report by South China Morning Post, to access this new platform, users of the three popular mobile apps need to register their phone number, enter their name, as well as their national identity number. This will allow these apps to track their movements and compare them with the movement of those who are infected with coronavirus. The platform collects movement data as well as records from public authorities to find out if the person has lived, worked, or travelled with someone who has been confirmed or is suspected of having the virus, within the last two weeks.
According to the report by Xinhua, the platform was developed by the National Health Commission, General Office of the State Council, and China Electronics Technology Group Corporations (CETC). It also details what classifies as “close contact” which is “someone who has come in close distance, with no effective protection, with confirmed cases, suspected cases or mild cases while the person was ill or showed asymptomatic cases in the following conditions” like people who share the same classroom, live in the same house, or work close together. You can find the complete set of conditions towards the bottom of the report.
Public transport records where entering ID information is necessary are being closely monitored as well but movements like visiting markets or shopping malls are not part of the database. The report by Xinhua also states that while in flight, a passenger who is sitting three rows in front or behind someone who is infected or suspected will be at risk. Flight attendants in the area also fall in the close contact range. Other passengers on the plane will fall in the general contact range.
This amount of tracking and monitoring might be considered as too intrusive by some so the information page of this new platform asks users to go through China's cyber-security laws.