Israel takes step toward monitoring phones of coronavirus patients

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Israel has long been known for its use of technology to track the movements of Palestinian militants. Now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to use similar technology to stop the movement of the coronavirus.

Netanyahu’s Cabinet on Sunday authorized the Shin Bet security agency to use its phone-snooping tactics on coronavirus patients, an official confirmed, despite concerns from civil-liberties advocates that the practice would raise serious privacy issues. The official spoke on condition of anonymity pending an official announcement.

The new plan would use mobile-phone tracking technology to give a far more precise history of an infected person’s movements before they were diagnosed and identify people who might have been exposed.

In his address, Netanyahu acknowledged the technology had never been used on civilians. But he said the unprecedented health threat posed by the virus justified its use. For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness.

“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 said.

The proposal sparked a heated debate over the use of sensitive security technology, who would have access to the information and what exactly would be done with it.

The only other place believed to have used similar technology to fight coronavirus is Taiwan, where the government used mobile phones to make sure infected people didn’t leave quarantine.

Read more via AP

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