Citing Coronavirus, DefMin Seeks Citizens’ Mobile Phone Locations

A man uses his phone to scan the QR code logging his visit to a museum with a government website.
A man uses his phone to scan the QR code logging his visit to a museum with a government website.

BANGKOK — The Ministry of Defense on Monday confirmed a proposal asking mobile phone operators to give up the location data of those who were in close proximity to coronavirus patients.

Gen. Raksak Rojphimphum, director of defense policy and planning office, said the proposal is solely for the purpose of outbreak prevention. His statement came after a transparency activist revealed the plan on social media, causing much uproar among netizens who worry it would threaten privacy.

“We have good intentions,” Gen. Raksak said. “We collaborated with different agencies to see whether the plan is possible. We concluded that it is executable, so we sent that letter out for the benefit of outbreak investigation.”

According to the leaked document published by academic and activist Sarinee Achavanuntakul, mobile phone operators are asked to provide location logs for the past 14 days of users who are found to contract the virus.


They are also told to provide mobile number information of the users who shared the same location with the patients.

But Gen. Raksak said the proposal is currently being studied and is not yet implemented.


He also downplayed concerns of privacy, saying that the information will only be used to send SMS messages notifying those who were close to COVID-19 patients to isolate themselves from the public.

“The defense ministry is not using people’s personal data for anything else,” Raksak said. “We are just brainstorming to find a way to prevent the spread of the disease. It’s being tested to prepare for the second wave of infections.”

Visitors to malls and other business establishments are already required to register with the government’s tracing site called Thai Chana, which asks them for phone numbers, names, and other private details.