A Chinese woman shows her local health QR code from the Beijing Municipality to a security guard as he checks her temperature before entering a shopping area during the May holiday on May 3, 2020 in Beijing, China.
Kevin Frayer | Getty Images
A Chinese city has unveiled proposals to permanently track a person’s health through an app that gives them a score based on factors such as how much alcohol they drank and the amount of sleep they got.
The tracking system would work via a digital barcode on a person’s phones. These so-called QR codes became popular during the height of China’s coronavirus outbreak. They are still being used — to a lesser extent than before — to determine whether a person can enter a building or take public transport.
Some of the barcode apps work on a traffic light system, where red would mean a person was a health risk and green meant they were able to enter a building, for example. Some of these barcodes were based on a person’s travel history. If a person went to a high-risk area of China, that code may change color. Others were based on people self-declaring their health status, whether they had any symptoms and where they traveled.
While these were seen as a way of countering the coronavirus outbreak, Hangzhou, a city south-west of Shanghai and home to technology giant Alibaba, is proposing a permanent version of the barcode system.
Governments have been collecting more data during the global pandemic to help fight the virus. But that has raised concerns about heightened surveillance continuing even after the coronavirus is brought under control.
In Hangzhou, the government’s proposals involve giving a person a health score. This will be based on various factors including electronic medical records, results of physical examinations and lifestyle choices. In a screenshot of the barcode-based system, a person’s health score can be seen going down because they drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes. Meanwhile, a good amount of sleep plus exercise increases a person’s score.
It is unclear how the government would collect such information or whether this app will come to fruition.
The health code that Hangzhou residents are currently using related to the coronavirus is run via Alipay, the mobile payments platform owned by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial.
When asked about the new app, the company told CNBC it has “not been contacted by any party with respect to this project.” A spokesperson reiterated that protecting the privacy of users is “a strict requirement for all third party service providers on our platform.”