The ‘close contact detector’ tells users if they have been near a person who has been confirmed or suspected of having the virus. People identified as being at risk are advised to stay at home and inform local health authorities. The technology shines a light on the Chinese government’s close surveillance of its population.
The app was jointly developed by government departments and the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation and supported by data from health and transport authorities, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua. It is widely known that the Chinese government conducts high levels of surveillance on its citizens but experts in the field suggest, in this case at least, it will not be seen as controversial within the country.
To make an inquiry users scan a Quick Response (QR) code on their smartphones using apps like the payment service Alipay or social media platform WeChat. Once the new app is registered with a phone number, users are asked to enter their name and ID number. Every registered phone number can then be used to check the status of up to three ID numbers.