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Thailand set to launch COVID-19 tracking app for tourists, talks with China about ‘travel bubble’

Written by Stephanie Pearl Li Published on 

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Thailand launched a tracking app in April which has garnered around 60,000 users, but is criticized by privacy advocates.

Thailand plans to introduce a COVID-19 tracing app for foreign tourists, as the country is in talks with China to build a quarantine-free travel bubble by January to alleviate the pain for its ailing tourism industry, according to a local news report by Thai PBS World.

The new app, named Thailand Plus, supports the government in tracking the whereabouts of foreign tourists. Sompote Arhunai, CEO of Energy Absolute, which helped building the country’s contact tracing app Mor Chana, explained to Thai PBS World that the app will screen foreign tourists with the help of GPS.

Mor Chana, which launched in Thailand in April, has already garnered a user base of around 60,000 Thais, but was criticized by the Data Protection Excellence Network (DPEX), the research arm of Singapore-based cybersecurity firm Straits Interactive, as requiring “excessive use of permissions.”

“The reasons for these permissions are not explained in the privacy notice,” the report said. It requires for example the camera permission, so that a selfie can be taken during registration.

The news comes at a time when Thailand is in talks with China to reopen its tourism industry to the northern neighbor who accounted for around 25% of the country’s 40 million tourists every year before the pandemic started. If there is a travel bubble, there will be no mandatory quarantine for Chinese tourists, besides a coronavirus test and mobile tracking of the visitors.

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