Israel limits coronavirus cellphone surveillance for coronavirus to ‘special cases’
The Israeli cabinet on Sunday limited the involvement of the Shin Bet security service in contact tracing of the COVID-19 cases saying that it would now be the last resort if the epidemiological investigation were insufficient.
The emergency regulation came into effect after privacy watchdog groups challenged the use of the technology, otherwise deployed for anti-terrorism in the court.
Citing waning contagion rates in Israel, the cabinet amended regulations so that the phone tracking is warranted “in specific and special cases only, where location … cannot be completed with epidemiological investigation using other methods”.
However, a cabinet statement said, the reduced scope of Shin Bet involvement could be reviewed if a coronavirus surge is feared.
Israel – with a population 9 million – has reported 16,712 coronavirus cases and 279 deaths. Schools and businesses have been reopening amid cautious optimism about health policies.
A parliamentary oversight panel and the cabinet have been conferring on legislation that would regulate the Shin Bet involvement.
Last week, Israel’s top health minister, who has had frequent contact in recent weeks with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other top officials, was diagnosed with the new coronavirus, the Health Ministry announced in a press conference.
The head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency and the National Security Council were asked to isolate after being exposed to the health minister Yaakov Litzman, an Israeli daily reported. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had gone into isolation previously after a top aide tested positive for the virus.