COVID 19: Government tracking phones a solution or a breach of privacy?

Phone tracking was a common phenomenon and people used it for various purposes. Some used it to locate their lost phone, some used it to track children, and some used it to check on their spouse whom they suspected of cheating.

However, tracking phones have a whole new meaning in 2020. It has become a solution to the spread of epidemics, which has crippled economies and put countries on lockdown.

COVID 19: Government tracking phones a solution or a breach of privacy?

The most dangerous thing about Cowed-19 is that an infected person can live a healthy life for 15 days before the symptoms go away. In those two weeks, they are an unknown carrier of the disease and spread to many people.

Once a person is found to be positive for COVID-19, the government will also release a list of their location history and phone numbers of people who have been in close contact with the victim. Testing, alerting and early diagnosis of a person who comes in contact with an infected person can also increase their chances of recovery.

How is the data location taken?

There are two ways in which location data can be retrieved:

●     Cell site

When a person moves from one place to another, he is confronted by several cell phone towers. Cell phone towers have been set up in every area. When a person goes through tower pings, the telecommunications company has all the pings stored by each user in its user database. It can easily track the person’s location history with accuracy. The government may ask telecommunications companies to share this data with them.

●     GPS

The Global Positioning System (GPS) can track a person. It records every move of the day and data is recorded by apps that sometimes ask permission to do so, and others do so without permission. This data is then sold to data brokers who use people to market their products. The government can also get this information, and it can use this data to inform people who may have been infected.

Phone tracking can be done systematically by the government. They need to find, track, and cross-reference all locations. There is a possibility that there may be a crowd of people at the place where the victim was. This process is lengthy and tedious, but until a vaccine is developed, COVID-19 is the only solution to prevent COVID-19 and more deaths.

Telecommunication technology has provided the government with a wide range of targeting options.

However, some people have privacy concerns.

Some people are concerned that the move would give the government access to all the data in which they could not be less likely to associate with an unknown person on the other side of a computer screen.

However, since there is no other solution, many countries are taking advantage of this technology. Some of the countries on the list are India, Hong Kong, Israel, Austria, Belgium and Germany.

It is reported that the United Kingdom (UK) government is in talks with all its major telecommunication companies to help them do the work and give them access.

On the other hand, Singapore has introduced an app called Trace Together, which allows people to share their location voluntarily. In case they become infected, everyone who was around them can be alerted.

However, some countries have been blamed for not being transparent about the process, for instance, Iran. 

What does Human Right Organization say?

According to Human Rights Law, this is unlawful, but in the state of emergency, the governments can take data, but if they do, it should be for a short period.

In the current condition, they have said that it is okay to use the location data but have advised governments using this method too,

  • The data obtained should be relevant in the cause to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Only track the location of the people during this pandemic. After this, it should immediately be seized.
  • The data which is collected should be stored in an extremely safe place, and only people of authority should be able to access it.
  • The security should also be ensured so that no one can use this data for their vendetta. If it is stolen, then it could lead to a massive crisis.
  • The public should be aware, and the data should be as transparent as possible.

If this is the only way to prevent more deaths, the government should use it responsibly.

Hopefully, the world will get through this hard time, and we would be able to go out of houses again without being scared.