23 June 2020

How countries began to locate their citizens due to COVID-19

Due to the pandemic crisis, many countries have forced their inhabitants to confine themselves to their homes or to limit their movements as much as possible. To control these movements, they have launched apps or mobile software that, in many aspects, can concern the population because of the violation of their privacy.

Initially, South Korea used the location system incorporated into smartphones to track the movements of its inhabitants. In northern Italy, the government also used this system to monitor the movements of the Italians.

In many cities in China, the government required inhabitants to specific software on their phones that automatically classified them in three colors: green, yellow, or red. This software determined who should remain in quarantine and who should not.

In Singapore they have offered an app (TraceTogether) that locates people who have been exposed to the virus. This app uses the Bluetooth frequency to locate those people.

Also, Google has launched a coronavirus screening tool, in collaboration with the state of California. Through this app, citizens can perform tests to determine whether or not they have symptoms of the virus. If one of the individuals shows clear symptoms, the app allows them to make an appointment for the coronavirus medical test.

Earlier this month, Google and Apple announced that they would jointly develop a digital service to track and notify the proximity of those affected, using a BluetoothLow Energy system. 

In the joint statement, both companies have reaffirmed their concern for the privacy of users: "Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze".

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