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Russia Developing Tracking App For People Infected By The Coronavirus

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Russia this week will roll out a smartphone app for citizens who have contracted the new coronavirus that will allow authorities to monitor their movements outside of their homes. Moscow city official Eduard Lysenko told state radio Wednesday that the app will be available to download on Thursday, and residents without a smartphone can be loaned one by the government.

The Russian capital city has been hit hardest within the country by the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and has implemented strict lockdown precautions in an effort to slow the spread.

According to government officials, the software is expected to launch by Thursday, BBC reports. The move coincides with a larger initiative between European health institutions to create a network of virus-tracking apps that communicate with each other. The UK and Germany are purportedly working on similar solutions, too.

Russia‘s software will initially be limited to citizens who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 but have been released from the hospital. BBC notes the app will request access to users’ calls, location, camera, storage, network information, and other data. It’ll be available for both Android and iOS.

Back in February, China dropped a similar app, which let people check if they had been in close contact with individuals infected by the coronavirus. Later reports suggested the app was sharing users’ data with local police.

“We’d be concerned about the possibility of this app being used to track the movements of millions of people, as well proving to be a tool for social control,” Tom Fisher, a senior researcher at Privacy International, told BBC.

Residents can only leave their homes to go to the grocery store or pharmacy, to walk their dog or for an urgent medical need, according to Reuters. As of Wednesday, Russia has reported 2,777 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 24 deaths, and 190 recoveries, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

The app will be available from Thursday, the official, Eduard Lysenko, told the Ekho Moskvy radio station. The Russian capital is also preparing to roll out a QR-code system where each resident that registers online will be assigned a unique code that they can show to police officers if stopped when going to the shop or the chemist, he said. Both measures appeared in an unconfirmed draft blueprint for a city-wide surveillance system that was circulated online this week.

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