Chunghwa Telecom (CHT) is the sole developer of an electronic disease prevention platform and has not formed a partnership with any nation for its development, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said yesterday.
As governments worldwide grapple with methods to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform garnered international attention on March 14 following an announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordering that all leisure businesses and activities in Israel be shut down.
Israeli authorities planned to use invasive technology to track the whereabouts of people infected with COVID-19 and those with whom they come into contact, Netanyahu said, without specifying the nature of the technology.
Media reports later identified the technology as cellphone tracking.
“Up until today I avoided using these measures in the civilian population, but there is no choice,” Netanyahu said. “It gives us a very, very effective tool to locate the enemy, to locate the pathogen, and to try and isolate it instead of isolating the whole country.”
The technology “was tested in Taiwan, apparently with great success. Israel is one of the only countries with this ability and we will use it,” he said, adding that the Israeli Ministry of Justice had been consulted on the proper use of such measures among the general public.
The commission yesterday said that some commentators in Taiwan have misinterpreted Netanyahu’s remarks, saying that the platform was developed using Israeli technology.
“We want to make it clear that the platform was developed solely by Chungha Telecom, which did not work with any nation to develop the system,” the NCC said.
Regarding concerns that use of the platform could constitute an invasion of the privacy of people placed in home isolation or quarantine, the commission said that the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法) and Special Act on COVID-19 Prevention, Relief and Restoration (嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎防治及紓困振興特別條例) both give the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) clear authorization to enforce any disease prevent measures it deems necessary.
Use of the platform would not infringe upon people’s privacy, it added.
“Officials from the Executive Yuan’s Department of Cyber Security, the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] and the NCC first made plans for the system. Chunghwa Telecom was entrusted with the task of developing and launching the system on Feb. 1,” the NCC said.
“The system, the functions of which have been continuously optimized, has been used to track the subscribers of the nation’s five telecoms who were asked to undergo home isolation or quarantine,” it said.
First, the CDC compiles a list of people who need to be placed in home isolation or quarantine following close contact with COVID-19 patients or those who have returned from high-risk countries or areas, the NCC said.
The list is double-checked by local health and civil affairs departments, which ascertain whether the people can be reached at the cellphone and addresses they provide, it said.
The people’s cellphone numbers are then sent to the telecoms, which regularly report on the associated devices’ locations, which are derived from smartphone GPS data and the triangulation of base station data, it added.
If an isolated or quarantined person leaves their home, an alarm is triggered on the platform and their service provider sends a warning message to the person, as well as to local police, health and civil affairs agencies, the NCC said.
The warning message — written by the CECC — includes the person’s address, as well as the times and dates that they were found to have left their home, it said.
In addition to reminding them that they should immediately return home, it also warns them that they face a fine and compulsory resettlement for breaching home isolation and quarantine regulations in the Communicable Disease Control Act, it added.
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