China’s newest weapon in battling the spread of the coronavirus? Location data from mobile users. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced on Thursday that it launched a new service allowing Chinese telecom subscribers to receive a list of provinces and cities visited within the last 14 days via SMS.
The country’s three state-owned mobile service providers—China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom—started sending messages to users asking for authorization to send them their location data. Users can also send an SMS inquiry on their own and after an authorization process, see where they’ve been over the last 14 days. But the data sent doesn’t get very specific. Screenshots of inquiry results circulating on Weibo only show the names of cities and provinces.
Han Xia, director of the ministry’s Information and Communications Administration, said today that the service can help conduct screening for potential carriers of the deadly virus, especially as authorities have given the green light to resume work after an extended Lunar New Year holiday. Some cities in China have introduced entry restrictions to control the spread of the new coronavirus.
This article first appeared on Abacus News.