Not all fun and games. Cellphones are being used in the war on coronavirus. (Wikimedia Commons)

Panel Gives Netanyahu 3 More Weeks to Track Pandemic by Cellphone

A subcommittee in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has given Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a three-week extension to use cellphone information in order to trace the country’s coronavirus outbreak. The method uses location data from the cellphones of people found to be infected, and then calls for the notification of the owners of phones found to have come in close proximity over the previous two weeks. It employs technology used by the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, which has elicited concerns among those worried about privacy violations as well as interaction with an agency whose primary job is to track terrorists. When Netanyahu announced the program early during the pandemic, lawmakers turned to the country’s top court to demand the right of oversight, which was granted. The prime minister sought a six-week extension, but the subcommittee said he had only until May 26, after which he will have to seek the panel’s authorization once again. Proponents say the method works well, with data presented to the panel saying that over one-third of the country’s more than 16,000 cases were uncovered in this way. Critics, however, point to Israel’s downward trend in infections, saying the method is no longer worth the risk posed to people’s privacy.

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