Israel To Use Terrorism-Tracking Tech To Fight Virus Spread

The government in Israel approved cell phone tracking in an effort to contain the coronavirus as the number of those infected rose to 213 on Sunday (March 15) and people were advised to self-quarantine, Reuters reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s Cabinet has authorized the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) to use mobile-phone tracking technology to monitor the movements of coronavirus patients. The request came from the Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov.

“We will very soon begin using technology … digital means that we have been using in order to fight terrorism,” Netanyahu said in a televised address. 

Because the measure could invade people’s privacy, Netanyahu said the Justice Ministry would 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 said.

Netanyahu clarified that the Shin Bet would 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.

“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, told Reuters.

The number of infected people continues to grow by more than a dozen daily in Israel and has prompted the closing of all malls, cafes, recreational facilities and schools. In addition, the government mandated that no one should gather in groups larger than 10.

Aside from China, Italy is coping with one of the most severe coronavirus outbreaks. Italian producers of everything from cheese and wine to leather shoes are struggling with disrupted production and dropping demand. 

The country’s fashion and textile industry was first impacted by the virus in February as China began halting production in some areas of the country. Most fashion brands had to close some shops as authorities aimed to keep the coronavirus contained.