How the South African government will track positive COVID-19 cases

Jamie McKane

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How the South African government will track positive COVID-19 cases

The South African government has published amendments to the National Disaster Act which detail its process for tracking citizens who have tested positive for COVID-19, as well as their known contacts, using their smartphones.

South Africans who test positive for the coronavirus or who are suspected to have contracted the virus will have their personal information recorded and stored on a national database, along with their cellphone numbers.
 

SoTrue

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Surely they realise that you can't get the virus by communicating over the cellphone network?
 

mister

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How do they get location data from Vodacom/MTN? I thought cell triangulation was not accurate? Is there some sort of protocol that sends GPS data to the mobile companies?
 

Yskasmetnstoof

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1.They hoibgbto test 50 million people?
2. And if you are on the list and the people uou are in contact with does not have cell phones?
3. If you had it you are immune after 2 weeks I seem to recall. You pose no threat then.
 

garp

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What's the bet that at some point after the coronavirus has dissipated there is a narrative about how amazingly clean and safe SA has been due to the lockdown and the government makes a case for keeping a lot of the measures in place, like cellphone tracking, limited alcohol sales, curfews, restricted travel, etc?
 

ToxicBunny

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How do they get location data from Vodacom/MTN? I thought cell triangulation was not accurate? Is there some sort of protocol that sends GPS data to the mobile companies?

Its not accurate enough for precise location tracking, but for this use case its probably accurate enough to largely track potential spread.

In saying that though, I do wonder how legal this new regulation is. It wouldn't surprise me if COGTA are overstepping their legal rights quite substantially.
 

mercurial

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And when the pandemic is over, no one will press the OFF button, and so we will always be surveilled. Not that we are not right now. Nogals just when POPIA arrives...
 

j4ck455

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And when the pandemic is over, no one will press the OFF button, and so we will always be surveilled. Not that we are not right now. Nogals just when POPIA arrives...
I'm more concerned about government failing to adequately protect access to the database and the data contained therein (from inception and until after the database was supposedly destroyed in the future).

That said, it would help answer questions about when and how someone contracted COVID-19 (as in from whom).

If it is going to help identify people that are likely to be asymptomatic carriers and prioritise those people for testing, remains to be seen.

I just think it's far too late to be starting this now.
 

BoxFish

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I am not sure what cellphone tracking is hoping to accomplish?

Can the cellular providers provide a tracking history to see where a positive case has been? That could possibly be useful to determine potential infection sites. If so, then the operators would have had to archive such information and been capturing it since day 1. This poses other questions such as what do they do with the info and how securely do they keep it etc...

On the other hand, if the purpose is quarantine enforcement, then surely such tracking can be bypassed if someone wanted to i.e not using your phone, leaving it at home, using a different sim (Although the device ID might still be usable) etc...

I suppose if the operators were ordered to store the information from now, it could maybe help for future cases. Assuming that person actually had a phone to track.
 

ToxicBunny

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I am not sure what cellphone tracking is hoping to accomplish?

Can the cellular providers provide a tracking history to see where a positive case has been? That could possibly be useful to determine potential infection sites. If so, then the operators would have had to archive such information and been capturing it since day 1. This poses other questions such as what do they do with the info and how securely do they keep it etc...

On the other hand, if the purpose is quarantine enforcement, then surely such tracking can be bypassed if someone wanted to i.e not using your phone, leaving it at home, using a different sim (Although the device ID might still be usable) etc...

I suppose if the operators were ordered to store the information from now, it could maybe help for future cases. Assuming that person actually had a phone to track.

Its being touted as a method of tracking possible infection spread points. The operators have been collecting this sort of data for years. Your MSISDN would be tied to 2 or 3 tower identities at any given point with certain data which could be used to triangulate a rough position (accuracy unknown)
 

phly

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This is not looking good and has me uneasy. Not even the incompetance of folks above will stand in the sheer determination for this to happen in the name of health. This has me worried. Not for what it is but the precedent it sets.
 

BoxFish

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Its being touted as a method of tracking possible infection spread points. The operators have been collecting this sort of data for years. Your MSISDN would be tied to 2 or 3 tower identities at any given point with certain data which could be used to triangulate a rough position (accuracy unknown)

You are probably right. Just didn't really want to think too hard about it. Now of course the concerns about where and how that data is stored and how securely along with whom has access etc springs to mind. Of course the concerns about whether those with access to such data have benevolent purposes etc...
 

pinball wizard

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What's the bet that at some point after the coronavirus has dissipated there is a narrative about how amazingly clean and safe SA has been due to the lockdown and the government makes a case for keeping a lot of the measures in place, like cellphone tracking, limited alcohol sales, curfews, restricted travel, etc?
After all the threads and posts on the tyranny of tiny pecker Adolf Cele and the Brownshirts, did you just right now think of that all by yourself?
 

ToxicBunny

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You are probably right. Just didn't really want to think too hard about it. Now of course the concerns about where and how that data is stored and how securely along with whom has access etc springs to mind. Of course the concerns about whether those with access to such data have benevolent purposes etc...

I would hazard a guess that by and large the data is very incomprehensible to the average person and it would take some very specific knowledge to turn it into something useful.

In terms of who has access, I would guess that the operators keep that list very small and very tightly controlled to keep their ISO standards up to date.
 
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