Govt Plays Down Conflict After Pulling Out of Mor Chana COVID-19 Tracing App Project

Mor Chana App

On Monday, the government played down reports of conflicts between state agencies and the developers of the Mor Chana COVID-19 contact-tracing app after they pulled out of the project.

The withdrawal of the volunteer developers, which was made public over the weekend, caused a stir on social media with critics of the government casting doubt over the app’s reliability and data privacy.

Mor Chana is used to trace COVID-19 infections and alert users if they are in a high-risk area.

The “Mor Lab Panda” developers’ Facebook page posted that they had withdrawn because several agencies wanted to keep users’ status “green” despite reports of positive tests.

“So only state agencies can know who is at risk but not the people? The app doesn’t benefit the public and is currently more useful for some state agencies. Its use has strayed from the developers’ intention,” said the statement.

Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta held a press conference with two of the developers, Anuchit Anuchitanukul and Sompot Ahunai, to deny the reports.

Mr Punnakanta told the press conference that even though the government had taken administrative control of the system, the developers would still be acting as consultants.

The agencies now overseeing the network are the Digital Government Development Agency, the DES Ministry and CAT Telecom.

The handover was necessary due to legal concerns and the number of people, 30-40 million, who would soon be using the app, said the minister.

So far the application has been downloaded more than seven million times.

Mr Punnakanta also pledged that the data would be kept private and would only be used to stem the spread of the virus under the supervision of the Department of Disease Control (DDC).

“Status changes do not happen in real-time because they must be confirmed by the DDC first,” he said.

Dr Anuchitanukul said the developers decided to hand over the app to the government as its use is set to be expanded.

However, Loy Chunpongtong, an academic who is close to the developers’ team, said in a media interview that the DDC had refused to change the status of infected users.

“If everyone’s status is green, what is the use of the application? It’s no different from a junk app. So they withdrew.”