‘Corona ALERT’ text message: Govt using cell phone tracking to alert people at virus risk
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) told a source that the message was being sent to selected individuals only.
Many people across Pakistan have reported receiving a ‘Corona ALERT’ text message recommending them to take essential precautionary measures as they may have been exposed to someone known to have the coronavirus.
The alert says, “It has been observed that you may have come in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case in the last 14 days. You are, therefore, requested to take necessary precautionary measures by self-quarantine.”
The Telecom authorities have confirmed that the message is authentic. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) told a source that the message was being sent to selected individuals only.
The Digital Pakistan program leads the initiative that relies in part on a cell phone tracking system. The mechanism of the system works by first detecting locations visited by an identified Covid-19 patient over the last 14 days.
When the owner of phone tests positive for the virus, authorities use a record of their recent activities. After that the authorities alert owners of other phones that recently came close to the infected person’s phone and instructed them to self-isolate.
The head of the Digital Pakistan program, Tania Aidrus, told the source, “To help the health ministry in detecting maximum people at risk, we are using all possible sorts of data sources with the assistance of telecom providers and the PTA.”
How are people traced?
- Phone locations can be tracked using cell site location information (CSLI).
- CSLI through cell towers helps the network to record events such as calls, messages, and data usage, besides time and location, in the form of call detail records (CDRs).
- With the help of CDR analysis, details such as locations visited by a confirmed coronavirus patient as well as cell phone numbers of others who were in the same locality at the time can be attained from the patient’s phone data.
- Other tools such as GPS sensors built directly into phones and Bluetooth can also be used to obtain the location visited by the corona patient.
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