A privacy protection watchdog advising the government on Monday slammed the government's decision to bring back the use of tracking technology to trace COVID-19 cases.
The government on Sunday approved to reinstate the emergency use of cell phone tracking for those who have tested positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant by the Shin Bet domestic security service, after the move was first okayed by the coronavirus cabinet.
The Privacy Protection Council, a regulatory and enforcing authority for personal digital information, condemned the move, saying the effectiveness of the measure is "questionable".
"We estimated that the government and the Health Ministry were weaned off the use of this tool, but they seem to have become addicted,” said the council.
The authority also sent a letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, cabinet ministers and the heads of the legal system, saying the Shin Bet’s tracking tech should only be used as a last resort in the battle against coronavirus.
"Of course, the discovery of the new strain of the virus is of great concern, but - given the dimensions of the disease, the scope of the vaccination campaign and the timely preparation of the authorities for this scenario - there is no room to use such extreme measures yet again,” added the council.
Bennett's office, meanwhile, noted that there are several restraints in place on the use of the tool and that the move is coordinated with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz also responded to the renewed use of the contentious measure, saying he has "great difficulty with the use of the tool.”
“I prefer the Shin Bet deal with security rather than civilian issues. However, I have decided, out of a sense of responsibility, to accept the request of the experts, which I will examine each and every day.”