Israel limits controversial phone surveillance as virus cases decline

The cabinet says that from now on, the measure that allows Shin Bet to track location of confirmed COVID-19 carriers, will only be available to security and health services in 'specific instances'

i24NEWS, Ynet|
Israeli government on Monday voted to limit security services' involvement in locating coronavirus carriers using cell phones, saying from now on the measure would only be used when epidemiological investigations prove insufficient.
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  • The move comes following a decline in the rate of new diagnoses and coronavirus-related deaths, which at the moment stand at 279.
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    מצלמות עוקבות אחרי אזרחים
    מצלמות עוקבות אחרי אזרחים
    Tracking of general public, illustration
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    The cabinet approved the emergency measure mid-March, following a COVID-19 outbreak in the country, which allowed Shin Bet to use surveillance technology in tracking coronavirus patients in an effort to limit their exposure to general public.
    Government watchdog groups have challenged the practice in court, arguing the use of mass surveillance to track Israel's population is a gross violation of civil and privacy rights.
    During the cabinet meeting on Monday, the government modified the regulations to make cellphone tracking available to officials only "in specific instances, when the places [where the carrier visited] cannot be verified by an epidemiological investigation."
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    מחלקת הסייבר של השב"כ
    מחלקת הסייבר של השב"כ
    Shin Bet's cyber unit
    (Photo: Shin Bet )
    The ministers added, however, the reduced scope of the Shin Bet involvement in tracking confirmed COVID-19 carriers could be reviewed if another outbreak occurs in the future.
    On Sunday, the cabinet approved a plan presented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz, which seeks to inject an additional NIS14 billion ($4 billion) into the economy, bringing the state’s bailout package to a total of NIS100 billion ($28 billion).

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