Ford School alum partners with Hong Kong government to monitor quarantine compliance while protecting citizen privacy
During the COVID-19 quarantine, Hong Kong mandated that all local residents and foreigners remain in designated zones at all times. Government officials were faced with a technical challenge to ensure citizen compliance without invading privacy, all at a minimum security risk. Initial compliance tracking was costly to monitor and procedurally inefficient. Seeing an opportunity for SagaDigits Group, co-founded by Ford School alum Shayne Chisheng Li (MPP/MSI ‘12), their subsidiary, Compathnion, stepped in to collaborate in a new public-private partnership with the Hong Kong government to offer innovative geofencing technology.
Noting that there was an opportunity to improve on the technology, Compathnion launched the mobile app StayHomeSafe in Hong Kong, which avoids intrusive location-sharing. StayHomeSafe uses unique “WiFi networks, Bluetooth and cellular/4G networks, and multifarious environmental signals to create a ‘composite home signature’ for each user”.
This signature is different from a typical location tracker and allows more privacy by only tracking when someone leaves a designated zone. Li explains, “these signatures do not collect nor store any user's geolocation coordinates, thereby preserving their locational data privacy. If a user breaches the quarantine order by leaving their home, the app would detect a signal deviation from the signature pattern and triggers an alert that the person has left the designated quarantine zone.” Furthermore, using an app as the monitoring platform is much more cost-effective for governments.
Since StayHomeSafe was publicly announced and deployed by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer in Hong Kong on March 14, the app has been used by more than 80,000 users placed under home quarantine. “The public-private partnership between Compathnion and the Hong Kong government is a case of controlling pandemic risks through active public management and innovative technology solutions,” says Li.
Shayne Chisheng Li previously worked at Privacy Journal as a tech policy consultant, and published books such as Consumer's Handheld Guide to Privacy Protections and Compilation of State and Federal Privacy Laws, 2012 Consolidated Edition. He worked at several Silicon Valley companies before joining Sagadigits Group as its initial team member in 2017. Shayne currently provides B2B solutions to enterprises in the retail and real estate sectors as well as policy consulting to government clients.