Chinese expand the use of QR codes to track the health status

The Chinese QR codes for tracking health status played an important role in deterrence of spread of coronavirus in country. But now it is going to be even more important in everyday life. 

QR codes for tracking health status can become total. These codes embedded in popular application for WeChat or Alipay smartphones use self-reporting and automatically collected information about movement and medical records in order to give them red, yellow or green rating that shows the possibility of coronavirus infection.

To go for a walk freely people must have green rating. Since February people are asked to show QR code of their health just to get inside restaurants, parks or other places. This new thing was met with some social resistance and was considered as a necessary instrument for economic recovery. That was, until the Hangzhou city offered to assign colorful health badge to everybody on an ongoing basis and give them assessment from 1 to 100 according to their medical records and lifestyle.

Pictures published by Hangzhou health authorities show that people will be assessed on how long they go in for sport, their habits in food and drink, if they smoked and how long they slept last night.  That has been considered too aggressive and caused a firestorm of criticism by thousands of Weibo users. There have been a lot of discussions about confidentiality and data security while China is ready to protect the rights of people to privacy and personal data as a part of the first Civil Code of the country.

“My physical health is private. For what purpose do you collect information and draw up a list of leaders?”- Said of one the Weibo users in response to the suggestion of the authorities. Problems are mounting with confidentiality. Personal data are bought and sold easily in China and the possibility of hacking of the personal information was also a serious problem.  Ma Se is the lawyer from Hangzhou who reviews policy law. He stated that users have the right to require deletion of the data when the crisis would be over.  Other local authorities are interested in the possibility to widen the use of the health codes but they have not adopted it yet. The Guangzhou city in the south has widened its platform of health codes and included services that help people to book online consultation in local hospitals and buy face masks. The Fujian province declared about the wish to widen QR codes to include treatment and drug purchase.

It’s not clear whether Hangzhou has a successful offer and how much time post pandemic period will last.  On the one hand, the new rights that will allow people to take actions in case of the data breach must be adopted after debates in annual session of Chinese Parliament that has begun on Friday. General Manager of the Baidu search system Robin Lee and other delegates made a number of proposals in a meeting including the information collected during the pandemic and a need to destroy it after it would end or a need to impose regulations using them.  But at the same time QR codes functionality and its widening will continue because China promote national interests to avoid problems with data exchange and movement of people between cities and provinces.  Last week State News Agency announced that in future “health code” would have a wide range scenario of use.

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