[T]echnology

Covid 19 Tracking in Singapore, Thailand & China

Corona tracking in Singapore

In Singapore, the TraceTogether app is a government surveillance tool that allows the executive branch of the authoritarian-ruled city-state to access data and, in particular, identify tracked users. Although personal data is protected from access by private individuals, all data is disclosed to the authorities.

In Singapore, the assumption is that the state must have access to the central server in order to rigorously isolate all those identified as contacts. Methods are used to enforce the quarantine that are easier to implement in an authoritarian-ruled state.

It is possible that the app used in Singapore, while particularly successful in combating the pandemic, is fundamentally at odds with the options available in a Central European democracy, where there are repeated calls to let the people vote on anti-Corona measures after all. Singapore’s tracking model, as successful as it may be in practice, thus seems to be conceivably unsuitable for Europe.

Corona tracking in Thailand

The Kingdom of Thailand, which had long been largely spared the corona pandemic and has recently been confronted mainly with corona outbreaks attributable to possibly illegal migrant workers from Myanmar, is now also using a mandatory app to enable it to respond quickly in the event of a corona outbreak.

In the provinces currently most affected by Covid-19, Chanthaburi, Chon Buri, Trat, Rayong and Samut Sakhon, the use of the “MorChana” app, which is used for positioning, is now mandatory. The original statement that anyone not using the app in these provinces would be jailed has since been withdrawn. However, foreigners are to be subject to end-to-end control in other provinces as well, after it was discovered that Corona was brought in by foreigners in many cases.

As a further app for tracking Covid-19 infections, Thailand has now launched the ThailandPlus app before the required reopening of the country for tourists, another tracking app that must be downloaded by incoming tourists on their smartphone before entry and transmits the movement of the entrants in the country to the authorities in each case.

Tracking in China

In China, the social scoring system already implemented to varying degrees in different provinces has now been expanded in some places to include Covid-19 tracking. Originally, it was initiated to create trust in economic relationships, to be able to check the creditworthiness of individuals and companies, and to provide the data needed for this purpose.

State control has been common in China for generations, and anyone who rebels against it stands a good chance of being reminded by the authorities who is in charge in the country. Therefore, state control is accepted. However, private data collectors, such as those being used with the health passports developed by Alibaba and Tencent, are being eyed critically.

Behind the private models is a barcode system that controls movement based on expected health risk. Risk scores are calculated from the individual’s current body temperature, past whereabouts and documented encounters with third parties, which become visible on the smartphone as green, yellow and red color codes. Readers at the entrances and exits of buildings will ensure that public space is only accessible with a green code.

In principle, the assessment of state data collection and the resulting surveillance in China is largely at odds with the situation in Europe. Developments in the fight against the Corona pandemic in China may show the Chinese approach to be the better solution.