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Chinese authorities have ordered long-distance bus drivers in the capital to wear electronic wristbands to monitor their physical and emotional states, a move that has sparked concerns among privacy rights advocates, South China Morning Post reported this week.
Last week, the state-run Beijing Public Transport Holding Group distributed around 1,800 wristbands to bus drivers on cross-province and highway routes.
The electronic wristbands will monitor the drivers’ vital signs, including heart rate, body temperature and respiratory rate. They will also monitor emotional states such as anxiety. The data can be accessed by the public transport company in real time.
Officials said the move was part of a public safety campaign aimed at reducing the frequency of road accidents in the country: Earlier this month, a bus crash in the southern city of Guiyang killed 27 people and injured 20 others.
But privacy advocates and legal analysts questioned whether there was any need to gather so much information from the drivers. Others also wondered how accurate the devices are, noting that “inaccuracies could result in unwarranted distress and possibly unfair discrimination as well.”
The new requirement comes just weeks ahead of the ruling Communist Party’s congress, which is set to take place in Beijing. Chinese officials have been repeatedly warned to reduce “social hazards” in the run-up to, and during, the gathering.
Meanwhile, reports of electronic wristbands being used to monitor people in China have increased in recent months.
There was a public outcry in July when workers at a Beijing compound instructed residents to wear the gadgets to check body temperature while in Covid-19 home quarantine after returning from other parts of China.
In July, a top prosecutor said electronic wristbands and big data were being used to track people who committed “less serious” offenses in order to make fewer arrests.