Man Banned From Carrying ‘Loose QR Codes’ After Altering Covid Check-In Signs

Patrons use the Covid safe QR codes before entering WOMADelaide 2021 on March 05, 2021 in Adelaide, Australia.

Patrons use the Covid safe QR codes before entering WOMADelaide 2021 on March 05, 2021 in Adelaide, Australia.
Photo: Kelly Barnes (Getty Images)

A man in the Australian state of South Australia was arrested Wednesday after allegedly placing his own QR codes on two official covid-19 check-in signs, according to police in South Australia. The man was granted bail with one very specific condition: He can’t carry “loose QR codes” anywhere.

The government of South Australia operates an app called “covid-safe check-in” that allows users to scan a QR code at local businesses and events, giving the information to contact tracers when there’s been a confirmed case of covid-19 in the area. But some people have been incredibly hostile to the program, believing it’s an unreasonable invasion of privacy.

The 51-year-old man who allegedly put up the the fake QR codes, identified as Colin Mark Davies by local news site Adelaide Now, was charged on Wednesday with two counts of obstructing operations related to covid-19, a crime under emergency powers granted during the pandemic.

Davies allegedly placed the fake QR codes at two sites in the Forbes Shopping Center in South Plympton on Sunday and those codes reportedly redirected to an anti-vaccination website. Anyone using the official South Australia covid-19 app wouldn’t be redirected by the altered QR code, according to Australia’s ABC News, but users could be redirected to the anti-vaxx site if they scanned the code with their camera app.

It’s not clear if Davies is connected to other recently altered signs in South Australia that have reportedly included anti-vaccination propaganda. Businesses in the suburbs of Adelaide Hills and Blackwood had their QR codes changed by unknown perpetrators in recent days.

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A lawyer for Davies told Adelaide Now that he just “wanted to get his message out to the public,” though the specifics of that message were not articulated.

From Adelaide Now:

Magistrate Michelle Sutcliffe released Davies on $800 bail, and banned him from approaching the shopping centre or possessing any loose QR codes.

He will face court again in July.

Australia has done relatively well during the covid-19 pandemic, with just over 29,000 confirmed cases of the disease and 910 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University. However, the country has struggled with getting Australians vaccinated, with only about 2 million of the country’s 25 million people receiving a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of Wednesday.

Davies faces a maximum penalty of $10,000, according to South Australian police, though he doesn’t face any jail time.