(March 17, 2020 / JNS) In a controversial move meant to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Israel’s government approved a motion early on Tuesday to allow authorities to use sophisticated surveillance technology to track the movements of Israelis diagnosed with the disease.
According to the new protocol, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency will now utilize this technology to track down all those to have come within a few meters of known COVID-19 patients and send reports directly to their phones, notifying them of their exposure and obligating them to either self-quarantine or get tested for the disease.
The technology can track all locations visited by an infected individual in the weeks before they were diagnosed and can also be used to determine whether people are complying with mandatory quarantine orders.
The new regulations allow the collection of data from the phones of patients and those who have come in contact with them—with the exception of the content of their conversations—without a warrant.
According to the Shin Bet, the data will be deleted 60 days after the national state of emergency declared on Monday evening is lifted, in order to enable “an internal investigation of the efforts performed by the Health Ministry.”
In a rare public statement, Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman sought to reassure those concerned about implications of the new measure.
“As the head of the Shin Bet security service, I want to make it clear that the sensitivities around this matter are entirely clear to me,” said Argaman. “Therefore, I have only allowed a very small group of agency officials to be a part of this matter, and the information will not be saved to the Shin Bet’s databases.”
He added that the data would be given “directly to the director general of the Health Ministry or the head of the ministry’s public-health services, to be used only for the purpose of providing instructions to save lives.”
He added that the Shin Bet would not take part in enforcing quarantines.
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