Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said cabinet ministers approved the use of advanced digital monitoring tools to track carriers of the coronavirus in Israel through their cellphones for the next 30 days.
As of right now, Israel currently has 304 confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus, with none dead and 4 already recovered from it out of a population of 8.7 million people. So why, one wonders, is Israel taking such strong measures when they are not very hard hit? One such measure is attracting attention this morning, a vote by the Israeli government approving mass surveillance of its citizens through tracking their cellphones. Normally this would requite a court order on a case by case basis, now it does not.
Historically, governments are very bad at rescinding ‘temporary measures’ passed to deal with crises. Take for example the telephone tax passed by the American government in 1898 to deal with the Spanish American War. When was that rescinded? Never, it is still a tax on the books in Washington today that Americans in one form or another are still paying. Now apply that to Israel approving mass cellphone surveillance on its citizens. Will it help in stopping spread of the coronavirus? Yes, probably it will. But all that juicy other information they will also be getting I predict will be far too tempting to pass up. I say that when this COVID-19 crisis is over, the mass surveillance of cellphones in Israel to stop the outbreak will simply transmogrify into a ‘tool to stop terrorism’. Never let a good crisis go to waste, right?
Netanyahu: Ministers in Israel have approved mass surveillance of citizens through cellphones to halt COVID-19 spread
FROM TIMES OF ISRAEL: Such tracking technologies, which in large part rely on data from cellphones, have principally been used by the Shin Bet security service in counter-terrorism operations, and have raised major privacy concerns.
“These tools will help us very much in locating the virus, locating those sick and stopping the spread of the virus,” Netanyahu said in a live statement to the press in Jerusalem, as the number of infections in the country hit 298.
Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman issued a statement on Tuesday saying that his agency would start delivering information about those citizens infected with the coronavirus to the Health Ministry after the government unanimously passed the request by the Health Ministry to use digital counter-terrorism tools to track the movements of coronavirus patients. source
Saying ministers debated the issue for six hours on Sunday, and stressing that it would only be in effect for a month, he said: “We asked for strict oversight on this so that it isn’t abused.”
“Israel is a democracy — we must uphold the balance between the rights of the individuals and the public needs. And we are doing this,” he added.
By designating the move an “emergency measure,” Netanyahu was able to bypass the Knesset’s subcommittee on clandestine services, which on Monday refrained from approving a government request to approve the surveillance.
The measure has faced criticism from human rights and privacy experts as effectively it means any person in Israel could come under surveillance by the Shin Bet, an organization with no public transparency requirements. The proposal also goes far beyond the monitoring efforts used by other countries in their fights against the coronavirus. The Shin Bet agency said it would not be used to crack down violators of quarantine. READ MORE
Netanyahu Announces Digital Mass Surveillance Tracking Program To Help Combat Spread Of COVID-19
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