Asian countries use sometimes intrusive technology to fight coronavirus

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Electronic bracelets and short text messages to alert quarantine and digital search to track the movement of suspected cases … In the face of the emerging Corona virus, Asian countries resort to a range of innovative technologies, even if they are not without interference in personal life.

When designer Declan Chan landed at Hong Kong airport from Zurich earlier this week, the police that put a bracelet on his wrist greeted him. The bracelet is connected to an app that he was asked to download to his phone two weeks before the mandatory sanitary isolation at his home.

The bracelet and application allow the authorities to verify in real time its location to ensure that people returning from abroad do not spread the Covid-19 virus, at a time of increasing fear of the emergence of “imported cases” in the city that has known until now how to manage the epidemic.

In response to a question by Agence France Presse, Chan (36 years old) said by phone that he is used to this “spy” who will send an alert to the authorities if he leaves the house.

“Of course, his presence is confusing. But I prefer isolation at home rather than being placed in a government center,” he added.

– Caution ad –

Hong Kong authorities hold short daily press conferences to keep abreast of the latest epidemic developments. But it quietly announced in a statement on Monday evening that it used the device, which is usually used by the prosecution.

The authorities said that they had about five thousand bracelets ready to use and that they had ordered the purchase of another 55,000.

Since Thursday, all those coming from abroad have been required to put on a bracelet. As for those who were previously isolated and do not have one, they receive a daily video call from the police to verify their location and the number of those present.

This former British colony is not the only one to adopt such measures, as technology has been used by South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Singapore.

The Taiwan Epidemiological Center, set up in the wake of the SARS epidemic in 2003, is using large data flows to track potential virus carriers and monitor those in quarantine.

– digital fingerprints –

They receive a GPS phone and are monitored by authorities through the “Line” messaging app.

Messages are addressed to those who do not respect quarantine, as the tracking device is directly linked to the police. Violators risk paying a fine of one million Taiwan dollars (30,000 euros) and publishing their names publicly.

South Korea has a similar application, but its use is not mandatory.

For its part, Singapore tasked investigators with monitoring quarantine centers and tracking patient movements.

“We leave digital fingerprints wherever we go, whether to withdraw money from an ATM or when using our bank card,” infectious disease specialist in Singapore Leung Ho Nam said on radio.

Singapore, like Hong Kong, publishes the address and number of the building where the isolated people live.

But it must be recognized that each of the aforementioned countries seemed able to contain the epidemic even when it was spreading as widely as it did in China.

But these technologies pose serious privacy questions.

Maya Wang, a China affairs specialist for Human Rights Watch, says that no crisis should justify overriding the laws of monitoring and traceability three fundamental principles: in line with the constitution, parity and necessity.

– color code in china –

In the end, Wang asserts, democratic and transparent governments do better. “In places like China, the most intrusive measures are being implemented, with more arbitrary consequences.”

She said the situation reminded her of the period after the attacks of 11 September 2001, when many governments used the terrorist threat as an excuse to pass laws limiting civil liberties.

She added, “Emergencies are often the best opportunity to undermine democratic principles.”

Beijing has gone above and beyond in the area of ‚Äč‚Äčcontroversial technologies, through extensive data analysis and the comprehensive deployment of artificial intelligence technologies.

In a climate of suspicion, internet giants Alibaba and Tencent have designed mobile applications through which the Chinese inform the authorities of the assumed risk level.

They can use apps to get their phones to a QR code whose color depends on whether or not they visit places classified as a public health threat: green (no restrictions), yellow (quarantine for 7 days) or red (quarantine) Health for 14 days).

Getting this QR code based on user mobility analysis has become almost mandatory in many cities for getting out of train stations or using public transportation.


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The article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by Ordo News staff in our US newsroom press.