Chinese Province Wants to Label Citizens by Their Health Rating Using Data on Their Sleep, Eating, and Exercising

News and Analysis

The Chinese province of Hangzhou has proposed that authorities assign a permanent health rating to its residents, which would be based on people’s medical records and lifestyle habits. The move comes after China introduced and successfully deployed a similar QR system amid the coronavirus outbreak in an effort to hinder the further spread of the disease.

Hangzhou’s health authority explained that, when making the rating, it would consider indicators such as people’s eating and drinking habits, whether they smoke and drink alcohol, how much they exercised, and how much they slept the night before, NBC News reported on May 27.

Local companies and organizations will also be exposed to the planned system. If approved, both residents and companies of Hangzhou will have colored health grades, with a score from 0 to 100.

Some other Chinese provinces have already expanded their health code platforms, but have not gone as far as Hangzhou proposes. Residents of the city of Guangzhou can now use an array of additional services via health platforms, including booking online consultations with local hospitals and purchasing face masks.

Fujian province is considering expanding its QR codes to such services as medical treatment and medication purchasing.

Privacy Issues in China Raise Concerns

Hangzhou’s plans have ostensibly caused deep and widespread criticism from thousands of users of Chinese communication platforms, especially given that China is considering amendments to a package of laws on people’s rights to privacy and personal data protection.

The proposed draft legislation suggests that the entities who collect and store individuals’ personal information can not obtain, disclose, or carry out transactions of such data without consent.

The legislation, however, will not provide any protection from the surveillance by the government that has full control over the country’s digital sphere. The legal framework is ostensibly set to have some similarities with the European General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

On the Verge of the Privacy Crisis

Both the public and experts are concerned about personal privacy after the coronavirus pandemic is gone. Earlier in May, Stepan Gershuni, CEO of the Credentia blockchain project, suggested that extra surveillance may stay after the outbreak, however, there is a solution that can help protect personal information.

Gershuni referred to self-sovereign identity (SSI), an architecture-level technological solution implying safe storage and peer-to-peer access to data. “SSI solves the problem of proprietary access to information. Facebook and Twitter are typical examples here. Both are free to use, but all the data generated on the platforms are owned by the platforms. As a user, I have no freedom to take this data, such as all my posts or my follower lists, and move it somewhere else,” he said.

The idea behind SSI is that the user controls and stores their data themselves. They can store data locally on their device, but it can also be stored in cloud storage protected by multisig.

In the meantime, a Russian non-profit organization Roskomsvoboda launched an interactive map showing the extent to which the governments of particular countries violate people’s privacy. Rockmosvoboda’s Artem Kozlyuk told ForkLog:

“In not-entirely-democratic regimes, the risks of the measures staying are near 100%. In countries like China, Iran, and probably Russia, these systems won’t be removed and will be further used outside of their initial purpose and outside of public control.”

Written by Ana Alexandre

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