Free-to-download software offers people a better chance of being placed in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ), but returnees are cautioned to use the technology at their own risk.
The software is available for download on the online development platform Github and has been published along with a notice stating that it is designed to make booking a place in MIQ easier by automatically refreshing, checking and filling in forms on the MIQ website. fill to find a place.
“This should especially help you save your precious time and not have to manually refresh the website until you find one of the rare spots,” the post reads.
The MIQ booking system, operated by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, has come under much criticism in recent weeks as New Zealanders desperate to return home struggle to secure the limited space available.
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Users say that once dates become available, they are picked up faster than a human is able to click through the required steps, indicating that bots are being used to evade the system.
Some services have taken advantage of the MIQ booking system, such as MIQ Helpers, which has charged some users more than $2,000 to secure a room.
The GitHub post says the tools give users an advantage when booking a spot on MIQ in New Zealand over other people who don’t use similar tools.
“Keep in mind that your advantage in using this tool will make it harder for others who don’t use a helper tool to get a spot. Please help others get started with these tools so that everyone has an equal opportunity.”
Making the tools public made the system fairer to everyone, the post said.
It was hoped that MIQ changed its website and implemented a queuing system, it said.
“Then these scripts would be outdated and nobody would have to worry about this.”
The post said that before using the software, people should make sure they are not violating the MIQ website’s terms of service.
“And know that you use this software at your own risk.”
Once the software has been downloaded, a browser window will open and MIQ’s “Secure Your Assignment” page will continuously refresh and beep when new dates become available. It then pre-fills a form “to save precious seconds” when attempting to reserve a spot.
Another approach, requiring no coding skills, involves a browser extension that continuously refreshes the MIQ portal home page and beeps when new dates become available.
“These tools are just a quick attempt at creating a cure. They are far from finished or perfect. And if MIQ changes their website, they could break at any moment.”
MIQ co-head Megan Main said last Wednesday there could be thousands of people trying to secure available spaces at any given time.
“So they’ll be going soon,” Main said.
“This is not so much a system problem as it is a supply versus demand problem.”
On Friday, information about bots and scripts was added to the MIQ website. It said that before the booking process, some people used date checkers or automatic page refreshers on the front page of the MIQ website to identify an available date.
“But this is no different than repeatedly manually refreshing the calendar page,” the page said.
“If the page is automatically refreshed too often, the user will be automatically blocked by our security system, making it no more economical than clicking refresh.”
An MIQ spokesperson said it would take a week to find out how many users have been suspended so far.
The CEO of the Telecommunications Users Association, Craig Young, said the developers who posted on GitHub used a common piece of open source software to create a script that could work on the MIQ site.
“In some ways it’s not a bot, it’s just a piece of code that refreshes your website. You still need to book,” Young said.
Users should be aware that the software required technical skills, may have exposed it to security risks and may violate MIQ’s terms and conditions, he said.
“People are getting desperate to secure MIQ spaces, so they’re going to take these kinds of risks to do it.”