Isreal Planning to Use Phone Data to Trace Cases of CoronaVirus

The government of Israel is planning to make use of their secret collection of  people’s phone data to trace people who have crossed paths with someone who has contracted the coronavirus so as to decide who should be quarantined.

In a report by New York Times reports, the classified dataset that would be used is normally meant to combat terrorism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorized the move on Sunday, March 15, but Israel’s Parliament’s Secret Services Subcommittee still has to vote to approve the use of this top secret data. 

The idea is to thoroughly go through the geolocation data routinely collected from Israeli cell phone providers about millions of their customers in Israel and the West Bank, find people who came in close contact with confirmed  cases of the virus, and send them text messages directing them to isolate themselves immediately.

As at Thursday, Israel has about 677 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but thousands have been placed in isolation. Though the use of cell phone data to track cases could help lower the risks of contracting the virus, concerns over privacy violation can’t be ignored as well. 

Israeli health experts informed the New York Times that the dataset from citizen’s cell phones is meant to help save lives and prevent a similar situation to what is going on in Italy and Spain, in which the entire countries are on lockdown. 

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. In total, there have been more than 245,484 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, 10,031 confirmed fatalities and 86,035 recoveries according to an online dashboard that tracks cases.

Here in Nigeria, government has placed a ban on 13 countries critically affected by the disease, and also ordered lockdown of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.  Though normal business activities are ongoing, some tech driven startups have initiated the remote work approach.

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