Indonesian immigration developing QR code tech to monitor movement of foreigners

Photo: Pexels
Photo: Pexels

QR (quick response) codes have become ubiquitous in Indonesia in recent years, particularly in the use of e-payment systems, but the tech may soon be used for Black Mirror-esque surveillance of foreigners if the Immigration Office gets its wish.

Speaking to the media yesterday, Immigration Director Ronny Franky Sompie said that the institution is developing a monitoring system for foreigners in Indonesia using the matrix barcode.

“We are developing a QR code technology to be placed on the passports or visas of foreigners so we can monitor their movements,” Ronny said, as quoted by state news agency Antara.

Ronny explained that hotels and transportation facilities will be given a special app to scan the QR codes, which will instantly relay information about the code holder’s whereabouts to a team tasked with monitoring foreigners in Immigration.

“If a foreigner stays at a hotel or wherever else, the owner of the establishment can report [their stay] by scanning the QR code in their passport using an app on the smartphone. The data will be sent to the Immigration Office. If [a foreigner] books a train ticket, we can also track where they’re going [using the QR code],” he said.

Ronny said Immigration has advised the government to issue a Perpres (Presidential Decree) to give legal justification for the new surveillance technology. He did not say how close to being implemented the QR code system is on either the legal or technological development fronts.

Foreigners already have to carry and show their passports when checking in at hotels or for train trips and flights, with the passport often photocopied for record keeping purposes. The proposed QR code tech would presumably speed up any process of accommodation establishments and public transportation facilities in sharing information that could map out the movement of foreigners with the government.

The tech was actually teased by the Immigration Office back in January, who said then that it would be used to monitor not only tourists, but also foreigners residing in Indonesia.

Immigration said they wanted to develop a more practical system to monitor foreigners on the back of having sanctioned 4,672 foreigners in the form of deportation and/or fine for overstaying throughout 2018.

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