Israel wants to use phone-spying tech to curb spread of coronavirus

Israel wants to use phone-spying tech to curb spread of coronavirus

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With over 200 cases of the coronavirus, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to use anti-terrorist technology to be able to trace COVID-19 patients and minimize the risk of spreading the virus.

Netanyahu said that the technology will be able to locate other people who have been in contact with those positive of the virus. This is done by tracking their phones to see the places they’ve been to before they were diagnosed and tested positive. This way, individuals who might be exposed to the virus can easily be identified and isolated.

Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, has confirmed to Reuters that Netanyahu and the Health Ministry have requested to start preparing the technology to use against coronavirus. Although, it’s been reported that the agency will not take part in quarantine violation enforcement procedures.

“There is no intention of using said technologies for enforcement or tracking in the context of isolation guidelines,” The Shin Bet said in a statement.

Though the purpose in itself is for the good of everyone, it entails questions regarding violations of privacy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“I am troubled by this announcement. I understand that we are in unique circumstances, but this seems potentially like over-reach. Much will depend on how intrusive the new measures are,” Avner Pinchuk, a privacy expert with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, mentioned to Reuters.

On the other hand, others see the benefit of this move. Yuval Elovici, head of the cybersecurity research center at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, told The Washington Post that privacy concerns can be minimized by collecting data anonymously.

“There is no doubt about the privacy issue,” Elovici said. “But in a technological society, it makes sense to use such technology to save lives. I personally strongly support it.”

Netanyahu addressed the fact that this move could invade people’s privacy. This is why he said the Justice Ministry would still give the final approval.

“They are not minor measures. They entail a certain degree of violation of the privacy of those same people, who we will check to see whom they came into contact with while sick and what preceded that. This is an effective tool for locating the virus,” Netanyahu added.

As initial measures to contain the virus, Israel has already closed all malls, cafes, recreational facilities, and schools. The government has also announced that no one should gather in groups larger than 10.

If your country is thinking of implementing the same approach, would you be in favor of or against it?

Sources 1, 2

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