Editor’s Note: You can find all of our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here. If you would like to help support our work, please consider taking advantage of our subscription offer here.
In a video uploaded to Twitter on March 16, Carol Yin talked through a white face mask as she explained to the camera what it was like to travel in a country that has turned cell phones into weapons to fight COVID-19. Yin, a Shanghai-based podcaster, described her trip to the nearby city of Wuxi, outside Shanghai, shedding light on how integral a phone’s location data has become in China as the country tries to stifle the number of new infections.
“At Wuxi railway station, I couldn’t exit the station unless I showed them where I’d been for the past 14 days,” Yin said, which required giving consent to her cell phone carrier to access her location over that time. Then, she had to sign up for Wuxi’s new health code system, which provides each user with a QR code that they must scan in order to ride subways, take taxis and even enter residential buildings. “Whenever I enter a building or a neighborhood, I will need to show them”—security guards—“my Wuxi health code.”