Taiwan has earned some global praise for its effective action against the coronavirus through its platform by launching an "electronic fence" based on a mobile phone that uses tracking of signals...
Taiwan has earned global praise for its effective campaign to limit the coronavirus, a program that includes having launched an “electronic fence” — tracking people via their mobile phones to ensure that quarantined people remain in their homes.
All governments in recent months have adopted a mix of technological and human efforts to enforce quarantine. Taiwan’s system is the first to use cell phone tracking for this purpose.
“The electronic fence system is part of the smart quarantine system. It uses the mobile signal on the telecom base station to locate the rough position of the mobile devices, said Hong-Wei Jyan, director-general department of cybersecurity executive yuan (Cabinet) of Taiwan. He continued “It does not use GPS information, only the electronic signal to the base station. Before we started developing this system, we did discuss the other options, like GPS data, electronic bracelet, the other IoT devices, etc. Finally, we decided to use mobile signal because it is the most convenient and simple, also this is a balance between privacy issue and prevention of COVID-19.”
The system monitors telephone signals to alert police and local officials if quarantined individuals move away from their address or switch off the phone. It’s not enough to leave your smartphone at home to enjoy a run in the open air and mock the system, because the authorities are ready to phone every single citizen in quarantine up to twice a day. The aim is to prevent people from running around and spreading the infection. Privacy concerns have limited the use of this technology, but the system has attracted few complaints in Taiwan.
“We do have the authorization from the Communicable Disease Control Act. This system is a good balance between the prevention of COVID-19 outbreak and privacy protection. When we started to build this system, we decided to follow these rules, the first is to have the least invasion of privacy, the second is to apply it only to quarantined people, the third is to remove all data of the person when the quarantine period (that is 14 days) is ended. Also, from the health declaration sheet, there is a note that describes we will use this technology to collect the rough positioning data during the quarantine period,” said Hong-Wei Jyan.
In Hong Kong, tracking bracelets are given to people who are quarantined. In Singapore, the government uses text messages to contact people, who must click on a link to prove they are at home.
Many states are still working to create a task force of experts and data scientists to study the data available and those that will be available soon, in order to better modulate the containment interventions, also using artificial intelligence.
“Technology can really help solving problems connected with the pandemic of Covid-19. From our experience, we have developed an online web form to let people fill it in with complete information before boarding or arrive to the airport. This information will be sent to the central database to let civil servants, health care officers, and policemen of local government contact people in the area they’re responsible for. Also, they will confirm the health status every day during the quarantine period. If there are particular situations, they will contact the health department, and also report to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC),” said Hong-Wei Jyan.