Daily US Times: Controversial Israeli cyber-security company NSO Group is marketing software that uses mobile phone data to monitor and predict the spread of the coronavirus.
The surveillance software-maker said it is in talks with governments around the world, and claims some are already testing it.
WhatsApp sued this company for allegedly sending malware to the phones of human rights activists and journalists.
But the company denied the accusation “in the strongest possible terms”.
The controversial Israeli also faces a lawsuit in which it is accused of supplying software to the Saudi government, which the country is said to have used to spy on the journalist Jamal Khashoggi before his murder.
NSO responded to this accusation last year and defended themselves saying their products were “licensed for the sole use of providing governments and law enforcement agencies the ability to lawfully fight terrorism and crime”.
But now the spyware firm is pitching its tools to better understand how coronavirus is spreading.
“The software is here to solve a global pandemic,” a spokesman of the company told BBC, “This is about giving governments the ability to understand the situation they’re facing and make informed decisions. It’s a really powerful piece of software.”
The employee of the company will not have any access to any data, as it claims, adding that the software will work best if a government asks local mobile phone operators to provide the records of every subscriber in the country.
Each person known to be infected with Covid-19 could then be tracked, and the software will identify the people they had met and the places they had visited, even before showing symptoms, plotted on a map.
”Governments would be foolish to use the system”, said John Scott Railton, of the Toronto-based privacy watchdog Citizen Lab.
He said, “The last thing that we need is a secretive company claiming to solve a pandemic while refusing to say who its clients are.”