Israel is gearing up for a new offensive in the fight against coronavirus, and it involves the unprecedented use of mobile phone location data. The country’s cabinet passed the emergency law during an overnight session, allowing the government to use location data to find out where people with coronavirus have been and with whom they might have come into contact.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the controversial law in a statement on Facebook. When someone tests positive for COVID-19, government health authorities will access historical location data for their phone. Anyone who may have been in close contact with the infected based on that data will be required to go into quarantine for 14 days. Officials can even notify these individuals via text message. Netanyahu says the government will enforce the quarantine “without compromise.”
As part of this new effort, Israel will also step up the number of tests to at least 3,000 per day. Over time, that may scale to 5,000 per day. Civil liberties groups have expressed concern over the government’s moves, which bypass parliamentary oversight and set a potentially troubling precedent.