JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel lifted more of its restrictions and is headed back to normal life, but some suggested measures in the ongoing war with the coronavirus that would be unprecedented.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech last week that Israel is developing technology to fight COVID-19. One measure Netanyahu suggested is to put "sensors" on the population to prevent citizen’s from coming to close to one another – especially children who are returning to schools.
"I spoke with our heads of technology in order to find measures Israel is good at, such as sensors,” Netanyahu said, adding that the digital sensor “will be on everyone, every person, every child.”
The technology could be compared to what’s used in Mobileye for cars that warns about the danger of getting too close to other vehicles or pedestrians. The prime minister said the senor would sound would make a "noise or buzzer" like cars with the Mobileye device when you get too close to it.
“I don’t know if this is possible, we’re checking this, we’re trying this, but we can through different means guard [against] the transmission of corona,” said Netanyahu.
Netanyahu quickly faced backlash by cyber experts. A cyber resilience expert told Israeli media that while she understood the idea in theory, it wouldn’t work for humans and would not any pass any practical or legal test.
"Theoretically, I get the idea behind it," cyber resilience expert Einat Meron told Ynet. "But although such distance-sensitive microchips exist in vehicles, it is different in humans."
She continued, saying: "a beeping sound telling me I got close to someone is not enough. Who says it will change anything? I would have gotten closer either way."
Meron also believes the technology would not be practical for children.
"It will be hard to do it to more than a million schoolchildren who return to their educational institutions in order to ensure one student sits at the distance of two meters from another. It is fictional and dangerous,” she explained.
Another concern is who could use the information from the sensors.
Netanyahu’s office responded to Ynet’s report and said the microchip data “is not to be implemented through databases, but through simple technology notifying [the citizens] about their distance. It is a voluntary option that is designed to help children keep their distance.”
During the lockdown, the government also approved Israel’s Security Agency Shin Bet to digitally track the phones of those who contracted the coronavirus to find people they are in contact with. Later the High Court said the country needed to pass legislation to regulate such tracking.
The Knesset’s secret service subcommittee on Tuesday approved a three-week extension of Shin Bet’s phone tracking.
Meanwhile, malls, gyms, and markets are allowed to re-open with temperature checks and social distancing protocols. So far Israel has had more than 16,000 cases of COVID-19 with around 250 deaths while the rate of new COVID-19 infections has decreased.
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