Israel launches apps to help fight coronavirus

March 25, 2020
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Israel launches apps to help fight virus

Yolande Knell
BBC Middle East correspondent, Jerusalem

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In line with its reputation as the “Start-Up Nation”, Israel’s high-tech sector is coming up with new applications to help in the fight against Covid-19.
From this week, a start-up called Vocalis Health is working with hospitals and the defence ministry to sample the voices of people who have tested positive – through a mobile app – to see if these samples show a “vocal fingerprint” that would help detect the virus in others. Artificial intelligence will be used to analyse the samples.
Another new app that has come online, called “The Shield” (“Hamagen” in Hebrew), can instantly tell people if they have crossed paths with someone known to have contracted the coronavirus. It was launched by the health ministry and takes location data from the user’s phone to compare it to data on the known movements of confirmed cases in the two weeks before their diagnosis. If there is an overlap, the user is told and asked if they want to report their exposure.
The ministry promises that information shared is secure. But computer-privacy experts warn that the terms of use for the Shield app are far-reaching and allow the sharing of information with “the proper authorities”.
Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service was controversially instructed to track the phones of infected people and send messages to those who had been in contact with them, ordering them to self-quarantine.

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