China: Alipay Health Code app controls movement in China


Software on smartphones dictates whether an individual should be quarantined. Chinese citizens in 200 cities, beginning with Hangzhou, are required to install the Alipay Health Code app, developed by Hangzhou's local government with the help of Alipay owner Ant Financial, on their smartphones. After users fill in a form with personal details, the software generates a QR code in one of three colors. Green enables its holder to move about unrestricted. Those with yellow codes may be asked to stay home for seven days. Red means a two-week quarantine. The app also appears to share information with the police. The Times’s analysis found that as soon as a user grants the software access to personal data, a piece of the program labeled “reportInfoAndLocationToPolice” sends the person’s location, city name and an identifying code number to a server. The software does not make clear to users its connection to the police. But according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency and an official police social media account, law enforcement authorities were a crucial partner in the system’s development. Reporter Paul Mozur, who worked on this story, has posted video clips showing the police and app in action.