Coronavirus tracking app exposes cheating partners in South Korea

‘Koreans pride their safety over their privacy,’ says local

Helen Coffey
Thursday 14 May 2020 17:05 BST
The app tracks residents' every move
The app tracks residents' every move

An app in South Korea that tracks residents’ movements to help stop the spread of coronavirus had an unexpected side-effect – exposing those who were cheating on their partners.

Channel 4’s documentary The Country That Beat The Virus: What Can Britain Learn? found that the country, which has been praised for its handing of the Covid-19 pandemic, has been successful largely due to an extensive tracking and tracing process.

Although South Korea was one of the first nations to experience the spread of the virus after China, it has had just 260 deaths, compared to the UK’s more than 33,000.

A key component of the South Korean government’s response was an advanced tracking app, which showed everywhere a person had been, enabling those they may have had contact with to be alerted in the event that they tested positive for Covid-19.

While an effective tool, the app “began probing patients’ private lives to extraordinary extent,” said Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

One local participant in the documentary explained how the app would issue an alert saying, for example, “Male, 58, was a banker, passed in this area, visited this hotel between these times, and then went to a cinema later on.”

They added: “Some people would connect the dots thinking, wait a minute, I know someone who’s 58 years old, who lives in this area, who is a banker.

“You had cases where people were in places they shouldn’t have been in such as hotels and motels.

“There were some cases where it emerged someone was cheating on someone else.”

However, despite these revelations, locals remain largely unopposed to the incursion into their private lives, with one saying: “Koreans pride their safety over their privacy.”

On 5 May the UK government introduced its own version of a contact-tracing app.

The app is currently being trialled on the Isle of Wight before it is rolled out across the UK.

The Country That Beat The Virus: What Can Britain Learn? aired on Channel 4 on 13 May. It is now available to watch on All 4.

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