Updated: Jan 21
Vaccine passports, vaccine registers, vaccine-only safe-zones and now wearable tracking tags, what next? Israel is racing ahead with its use of technology to control the pandemic and its citizens.
Last Wednesday the Knesset sidelined ethical concerns when it passed a law that permitted the sharing of non-vaccinee's private information with local authorities. Quite what will be done with this information isn't yet clear, but what is clear is the government's fast-tracking of technologies and measures that will transform Israel into a virtual police-state. Plans to implement 'safe zones' within cities will see demarcated access to areas based on vaccination status. Only vaccinated individuals will be able to enter all commercial and public spaces without restrictions.
As if those measures weren't enough, the country is now to trial wearable electronic tags on inbound travellers. The repurposed tags are almost identical to those worn on the ankle by convicts under house arrest. In this case, the technology will allow authorities to track individuals and monitor their compliance with quarantine rules. The proposed plan is to facilitate home quarantining, whereas those refusing the tag will be forced into Coronavirus hotels.
Arie Trabelsi, The CEO of Israeli surveillance outfit SuperCom and manufacturer of the bracelets, said: "governments and healthcare agencies are urgently searching for tools that assist their efforts in fighting this pandemic". A company press-release stated that they had received a spike in interest from governments looking to adopt the technology.
SuperCom markets the solution as PureCare, a '"best-of-breed" system which includes advanced AI, anti-tamper mechanisms, fingerprint biometrics, voice communication and smart phone integration.
While this is a pilot, what is surprising is that the company was in discussions with "numerous countries" about the technology as far back as April 2020 stating at the time that “the sheer quantities of units in discussion is higher than we have seen before or could have planned for”.
Further ahead, It's possible that those who opt-out of vaccination may be offered a similar option in place of 'vaccine passports' - or worse have it mandated. The thought of being treated like a criminal and forced to wear an ankle tag is chilling but not as far-fetched as it seems. Future outbreaks may mean governments resort to such measures to enforce quarantining of non-vaccinated individuals. This would put additional pressure on those shackled with these devices to submit to vaccination.
The function creep of pandemic containment could normalise surveillance measures that belong to prisons, not civil society.
SuperCom has received enquiries for people tracking technology and containment solutions from governments globally. It has a 4.5-year, $1.35 million contract with the government of Estonia to provide monitoring for people under house arrest, and another with a government agency in Canada and the US. At this stage it's not known whether these countries will adopt the quarantining system or not.