Alle Einträge vom 11.5.2020

NewIP – Grundstein für ein globales Internet nach chinesischen Vorstellungen?

Monday, 11.5.2020

Von Nadine Godehardt und Daniel Voelsen. Quelle: SWP

China’s Covid-19 QR code surveillance state

Monday, 11.5.2020

By Don Weinland

In a techno-authoritarian system, it is best to carry the correct digital credentials at all times.
I discovered this the hard way last month in the back of a taxi cab in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic began. Over the past two months, local authorities across China have rolled out health code systems, accessed through smartphone applications, to control the movement of people and identify those who had been diagnosed with the virus or visited areas of high infection. Sometimes it feels every transaction — even entering a park — is subject to government approval.
On my first cab ride in Wuhan, my credentials failed to pass muster, leaving me with the jarring sensation that I had somehow slipped outside the normal bounds of society. When I climbed into the car, the driver pointed to a QR code dangling from the seat in front of me. I scanned it with my smartphone but it then required a Chinese ID number to register — something that I, as an expat, do not have. I tried to talk my way past this, telling him I had just arrived from Beijing and I had that city’s QR code, but not the Wuhan version. The driver politely declined my business, explaining that the rules require each passenger to show what is known as a Wuhan “green code”.
Russia is rolling out a similar QR code system, which so far is only in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod. But in China, the codes are now everywhere. They hang in the entryways of most restaurants, shops, malls and banks. Even Beijing’s narrow alleyway neighbourhoods, called hutongs, require them to gain entry. When you scan the code, a limited amount of personal data is accessed through your phone to prove you are a low infection risk. Some codes pull data from phone carriers to see where you have been. Others appear to confirm personal health information, such as whether you have completed a mandatory quarantine. For those who have followed the rules, a green code appears on their mobile screens. If it’s a yellow code, you should be quarantined. As for a red code, which indicates infection or travel to a high risk area, the police might be called.
While in Wuhan in April, where I was unable to access the local health codes, I sometimes had to resort to subterfuge. My code for Beijing had turned yellow once I started my trip, so in local taxis and shops I often flashed a screenshot of a green code from several days earlier. If that did not work, I pulled out paperwork that proved I had quarantined in Beijing.
In many ways, the system is awe inspiring. The ability to roll out a comprehensive screening system, in which the only needed infrastructure is a matrix barcode printed on a piece of paper, opens the possibility of rapid, sweeping social control. Yet it is also prone to glitches that can totally cut people off from society. Lack of centralisation, so far, makes it difficult to use the codes between cities. There are also long delays in the system recognising location and quarantine data.
At one point in Wuhan, I received a call from a government minder. She said several journalists’ codes had turned yellow and asked if mine had too. When I replied it had, she told me I should not leave my hotel room until it turned green, despite knowing this was a glitch. “We must adhere to the conditions of the system,” she said.
Upon returning to Beijing, and completing a coronavirus test and 14-day quarantine, the district government confirmed I had carried out the needed procedures. However, they also asked that I stay home until the system recognised these changes — which would take several days. I did not follow that request and so again found myself in digital purgatory. At a bar entrance in central Beijing, I displayed an array of codes and documents which proved I had followed all rules. Yet the code used by the establishment stated, erroneously, that I had been in Wuhan during the past 14 days. I was turned away.
In China, many of the restrictions on movement are now being lifted and life is returning to normal. But the code system still lingers in many places. The temptations of keeping such a system of control in place, or even to centralise and strengthen it, must hold a strong attraction for the Chinese government.
Quelle: Financial Times, 7.5.2020