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China pushing for global COVID-19 tracking system

After mandating the widespread use of QR codes earlier this year to track the travel and health history of its citizens, China is urging the rest of the world to do the same. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping is pushing for a global COVID-19 tracking system using QR codes to track travel during the pandemic in effort to stop the spread. 

At the virtual G20 leaders’ summit on Saturday, Xi said that to ensure the “smooth functioning” of the world economy, countries need to “harmonize policies” to track those infected with the coronavirus. 

“China has proposed a global mechanism on the mutual recognition of health certificates based on nucleic acid test results in the form of internationally accepted QR codes,” Xi said. “We hope more countries will join this mechanism. We also support the G20 in carrying out institutionalized cooperation and building global cooperation networks to facilitate the flow of personnel and goods.” 

The software China has implemented assigns a color to each person that rules whether they should be quarantined or allowed out in public places, according to the New York Times. People sign up through the app, Alipay, and are assigned a color, either green, yellow or red, based on their level of exposure. 

Once a user grants the software access to their personal data, the “reportInfoandLocationToPolice” part of the program sends a person’s location, city name and identifying code number to a server; however, users are reportedly not aware that the app is connected to the police. 

A new era of social control.

China is not the only country using tracking software in attempts to keep the virus at bay. Japan, Singapore and Australia have all introduced the use of tracking technology as well.

Applications that track users have been a major privacy concern, especially in the U.S., for the last several years, and countries around the world have raised concerns about the use of Chinese technology in certain industries. For example, the United States government has urged its allies to abandon the use of Chinese 5G technology supplied by Huawei. 

Ultimately, the main problem that would stem from an international application would be maintaining the privacy of the compiled data. 

Would people really be comfortable giving another government access to their data, especially China? Likely not.