IS BREACH OF PRIVACY A BIGGER CONCERN THAN SAVING LIVES?

Rifa Deka

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned Intelligence agencies in Israel through the purchase of testing kits from abroad. He is now using an anti-terrorism phone-tracking technology to map COVID-19 cases within the boundaries of the Israeli state. The PM of Israel, in a broadcast recently, said that Israel will carry out thousands of tests every day which he believes is vital to protect the citizens of the country and need of the hour. PM’s office said that the Israeli state is utilizing all its capabilities to deal with the novel Corona Virus including bodies like the Mossad.

The Mossad, short for Ha Mossad Le Modi’in Ule Tafkidim Meyuhadim, the National Intelligence Agency of Israel, responsible for intelligence collection, covert operations and counter terrorism. It is one of the main entities in Israel alongside the Aman and the Shin Bet. Mossad has arranged for 1,00,000 kits and expects to bring millions more in an attempt to curb and combat the impact of the menace virus.

All this is said to be done in an effort to prevent Israel from being affected by the virus like Italy where death toll rose to 5,000 this morning, exceeding the numbers in China where the Pandemic first started. The Israeli PM has also ordered a lockdown amid fears of rise in number of COVID-19 cases.

The domestic intelligence agency, Shin Bet happens to be retooling spyware to meet any medical emergency and a nation-wide digital surveillance program which was originally created to fight terrorism is now being used to locate people at risk of being affected by the virus. This program uses mobile phone data to track people known to be infected by the virus and all those who came in contact with the affected persons.

Similarly, in some Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, authorities are tracking people under home quarantine using their mobile phone signals, electronic wrist-bands and other data provided by telecom firms.

This program, however, is being criticized by some law makers pointing towards a breach of privacy of the citizens of Israel, but is a breach of privacy a bigger concern than finding a solution to a problem such as this where the global pandemic has taken over 13,000 lives worldwide?

Although the ‘Janta Curfew’ and other shutdown measures taken by the Indian Central and State governments are proving to be effective and people are now practicing social distancing and self-quarantine, are we as a country, ready to battle the COVID-19 pandemic as India swiftly approaches a potentially catastrophic community transmission?

With 6 fatalities and 341 positive cases as of this morning, in a country over 133 crore people large, could using a spyware program to track those affected by the novel corona virus stop India from entering stage 3?