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China’s Virus Apps May Outlast the Outbreak, Stirring Privacy Fears


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Ways in which China is tracking its citizens.

China's official statistics suggest that the worst of the epidemic has passed there, but the government's monitoring apps are hardly fading into obsolescence.

Credit: Mojo Wang

At the height of China's coronavirus outbreak, officials made quick use of the fancy tracking devices in everybody's pockets — their smartphones — to identify and isolate people who might be spreading the illness.

Months later, China's official statistics suggest that the worst of the epidemic has passed there, but the government's monitoring apps are hardly fading into obsolescence. Instead, they are tiptoeing toward becoming a permanent fixture of everyday life, one with potential to be used in troubling and invasive ways.

While the technology has doubtless helped many workers and employers get back to their lives, it has also prompted concern in China, where people are increasingly protective of their digital privacy. Companies and government agencies in China have a mixed record on keeping personal information safe from hacks and leaks. The authorities have also taken an expansive view of using high-tech surveillance tools in the name of public well-being.

The government's virus-tracking software has been collecting information, including location data, on people in hundreds of cities across China. But the authorities have set few limits on how that data can be used. And now, officials in some places are loading their apps with new features, hoping the software will live on as more than just an emergency measure.

 

From The New York Times
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