Article by Viola Zhou: “On Valentine’s Day, a 36-year-old lawyer Matt Ma in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang discovered he had been coded “red”.The colour, displayed in a payment app on his smartphone, indicated that he needed to be quarantined at home even though he had no symptoms of the dangerous coronavirus.
Without a green light from the system, Ma could not travel from his ancestral hometown of Lishui to his new home city of Hangzhou, which is now surrounded by checkpoints set up to contain the epidemic.
Ma is one of the millions of people whose movements are being choreographed by the government through software that feeds on troves of data and issues orders that effectively dictate whether they must stay in or can go to work.Their experience represents a slice of China’s desperate attempt to stop the coronavirus by using a mixed bag of cutting-edge technologies and old-fashioned surveillance. It was also a rare real-world test of the use of technology on a large scale to halt the spread of communicable diseases.
“This kind of massive use of technology is unprecedented,” said Christos Lynteris, a medical anthropologist at the University of St Andrews who has studied epidemics in China.
But Hangzhou’s experiment has also revealed the pitfalls of applying opaque formulas to a large population.
In the city’s case, there are reports of people being marked incorrectly, falling victim to an algorithm that is, by the government’s own admission, not perfect….(More)”.