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Article China: Recommended National Guidelines for Health Code Apps Issued

(June 9, 2020) On April 29, 2020, the Standardization Administration of China and the State Administration for Market Regulation jointly released a series of National Guidelines for Personal Health Information Codes that specify requirements for health code apps in their collection, processing, and use of personal health information.

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese provinces and municipalities have introduced various color-based health code systems to control people’s movements and curb the spread of the coronavirus. It has been reported that some places have been reluctant to recognize health codes from other places. Accordingly, the guidelines are designed to help the provinces recognize each other’s health codes and facilitate travel.

In addition, the health code apps reportedly rely on a combination of self-reporting by the user, COVID-19 databases set up by government authorities, and data held by other sources, including the public transportation, telecommunication, and banking sectors. Privacy experts have warned about the leakage and abuse of personal data associated with these health code apps and have urged the authorities to ensure that the apps are in conformance with data privacy principles.

Protection of personal privacy and sensitive data was “fully considered” in formulating the national guidelines, according to the Q&A provided by China’s National Information Technology Standardization Technical Committee. The health code guidelines require the collection, processing, and use of personal health information to comply with the National Guidelines on Personal Data Protection, which were first issued in 2017 and revised in March 2020. According to the new guidelines, health codes must be encrypted and stored using an algorithm satisfying the requirements for national password management. Personal health information services and apps must obtain the express consent or authorized consent of users when collecting data, and must keep private content confidential.

The health code guidelines, however, are recommended guidelines that lack the force of law. The guidelines advise provinces and municipalities that have launched their health code systems to improve their systems in accordance with the guidelines, and those that have not yet launched their own systems to refer to the guidelines in building their own systems. Chinese national guidelines, also known as national standards, are usually designated as mandatory or recommended. Mandatory standards “must be implemented,” according to article 2 of the Standardization Law of the People’s Republic of China.

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Chicago citation style:

Zhang, Laney. China: Recommended National Guidelines for Health Code Apps Issued. 2020. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2020-06-09/china-recommended-national-guidelines-for-health-code-apps-issued/.

APA citation style:

Zhang, L. (2020) China: Recommended National Guidelines for Health Code Apps Issued. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2020-06-09/china-recommended-national-guidelines-for-health-code-apps-issued/.

MLA citation style:

Zhang, Laney. China: Recommended National Guidelines for Health Code Apps Issued. 2020. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2020-06-09/china-recommended-national-guidelines-for-health-code-apps-issued/>.