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NSA Technology Could Be Used to Track Ebola Cases

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Ebola Virus
The current Ebola outbreak has already claimed over 3000 lives mostly in West Africa. It is the biggest outbreak in history, larger than all previous outbreaks combined, unprecedented in many ways. Last week the analysis of global mobility and epidemic patterns showed that there is as much as an 18 percent chance it will turn up in the U.S. – by the end of September. As early as September 30 the first case Ebola on US soil is confirmed by CDC.

In May 2013, a large trove of classified documents disclosed by Edward Snowden revealed the massive surveillance capabilities of the NSA and several other participating intelligence agencies, developed as part of the PRISM project. It is now a recognized fact that intelligence agencies are capable of tracking your location in real time by means of collecting metadata from the cell phone towers, and linking that metadata to your personal information gathered from all your online activity.

That technology that is currently used for the stated purposes of fighting terrorism, but in reality for the purposes largely unknown to the general public, could be used for saving thousands and potentially millions of lives as it could help monitory the spread of the decease. People with the access to the system can do a simple query to search for all people who are crossing the border from the countries where Ebola virus is active. They can also do a query for people who have been in the areas of contagion and are therefore the potential carriers of the decease. The cross between the two could be used to intercept all potential cases right at the border.

Whether the NSA has access to cell tower data of West African countries is not clear, but how much effort would it take to establish this link, considering that it has the potential of saving thousands or millions of lives? How about tracking the potential carriers of Ebola inside the US? According to this NBC article, "80 people came into contact with the Dallas Ebola patient or his family", which potentially makes all of them the carriers of Ebola virus. There are now potentially hundreds of people on the US soil that could have contacted the Ebola virus.

Why isn't the available technology being used to prevent the further loss of lives - potentially thousands and even millions of lives? Would an invasion of privacy (if we still have any) resulting from further surveillance not be justified by saving innocent lives? Under the current federal law an individual that is considered to be a "probably case of infection" "may be detained for such time and in such manner as may be reasonably necessary" (42 U.S.C. 264(d)). Sacrificing the liberties of an individual who is a potential threat of infection, when a great many lives are at stake, doesn't seem like an unreasonable proposition. Would further tracking be unreasonable?

Knowing that tracking technology like this is available, and that it's existence is known to the general public and is way out of the territory of conspiracy theories, why can it not be used for the good of the public?

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