Coronavirus: how is Israel monitoring its citizens through mobile phones?

Israeli government has decided to use technology to identify who has in contact with the persons tested positive for Coronavirus. This seems to be an immediate step to deal with an extraordinary situation. However, this is also gross violation of privacy which raises several other questions. Should Pakistani government follow the same pattern?

Israel

Israel’s government has approved emergency measures to track people suspected or confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus by monitoring their mobile phones. The development appears to be an action taken in emergency but it has immediately raised privacy concerns in the country.

The cabinet unanimously approved the use of the technology – developed initially for counterterrorism purposes – in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, first raised the issue during the weekend. He said authorities would use the data to notify people who may have come into contact with someone infected with the virus, and also to enforce quarantine orders.

In a televised speech on Monday evening, Netanyahu said the cyber monitoring would be in effect for 30 days. “Israel is a democracy and we must maintain the balance between civil rights and the public’s needs,” Netanyahu said. “These tools will very much assist us in locating the sick and stopping the virus from spreading.”

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Using emergency powers, he bypassed what would typically be a process of approval by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. It had looked likely a parliamentary subcommittee would have delayed the rollout.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said providing the country’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, with new secretive powers was a “dangerous precedent and a slippery slope that must be approached and resolved after much debate and not after a brief discussion”.

Netanyahu’s authority to implement such measures has also been questioned. The country is battling the coronavirus while also under a continuing political crisis, with Netanyahu ruling as interim leader. His opponent, Benny Gantz, is currently prime minister-designate and attempting to form a government, although it is unclear if enough lawmakers will back him.

Read more: US leads CORONAVIRUS medicine breakthrough: Vaccine test opens

Coronavirus appears to be single most terrifying challenge the world is deal with. According to latest media reports, more than 7,000 people have died and more than 156,000 have been infected by COVID-19 as the disease spreads rapidly to new territories. The epicenter of the outbreak has now shifted to Europe, which is recording a rapid rise in new cases every day.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has risen to 237 as of Wednesday after more cases were reported in Sindh.  The number of confirmed cases in Sindh rose to 172 after more cases (25 in Karachi and one from Hyderabad) were reported in the province on Monday.

Read more: US, China accuse each other of coronavirus fear-mongering

Experts are working to have vaccine to treat novel Coronavirus. However, a perfect medical treatment is likely to take 12 to 18 months to be available in the market. Therefore, at this critical moment, citizens and government are encouraged to take preventative measures.

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