Meituan helps to launch real-name registration for public transit

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The Transport Bureau of Shenyang launched its “real name” system for public transit with Meituan on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (Image credit: Meituan Dianping)

As Beijing ramps up efforts to contain transmission of the novel coronavirus, authorities in the northeastern city of Shenyang are launching a real-name registration system for public transit developed by China’s on-demand services provider Meituan Dianping, and many cities are beginning to follow suit.

Why it matters: Real-name registration for public transit is expected to improve the ability to track the spread of the coronavirus, but represents further erosion of individual privacy. China’s campaign to extend real-name registration has expanded from train travel, social media, even some video games, and now to city transit.

Details: The mobile registration system requiring commuters leave their personal information via QR code before taking public transport went live on Thursday in Shenyang, capital of the northeastern Liaoning province, Meituan announced Sunday on its official account on messaging platform WeChat (in Chinese).

  • The system applies to all the metro lines, buses, and taxis, with notices posted in all 71 metro stations and 95 trains citywide, according to an announcement released by the city’s transport bureau (in Chinese). The process of adding the notices to buses and taxis is underway.
  • Passengers scan the QR code provided with their smartphones using WeChat, and are then asked to authorize access to the mobile phone number associated with the WeChat account, based on a TechNode reporter’s observations on Monday.
  • Drivers and attendants could help those who without a smartphone such as elderly and minor passengers to register, regulators said, and warned the violators will not be allowed to ride.
  • Meituan said the system would enable regulators to track people’s movements and target confirmed cases and those individuals who came into close contact. The company said that it collects data on behalf of the city government and all the data are encrypted and stored in dedicated servers.
  • A company spokeswoman said it plans to deploy the system with a dozen domestic city governments. Changchun, a municipality in northeastern Jilin province, immediately followed suit with the launch of the system on Sunday, and will post 30,000 notices with QR registration codes in the city by Tuesday, reported Chinese media.

Context: China has found itself in a dilemma; while it needs to restart public transport to support its workforce and economy, it may be risking a further spread of the virus despite boosting controls.

  • Shanghai began checking passenger body temperatures in the city’s 415 metro stations earlier this month, the city’s metro operator said Sunday on its WeChat official account.
  • Shanghai and the national capital city of Beijing have yet to launch a real-name registration campaign for city transit, although some long-distance bus lines have required passengers show their ID cards and have their temperature checked.