Israeli Response to Coronavirus: Keeping Tabs on Cell Phones

In Israel, curbing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus will come at a cost of some privacy. The country’s internal security service, Shin Bet, will be able to track citizens’ movements using cellular data, ostensibly to protect those who might have come into contact with coronavirus patients.

The Israeli government has approved a proposal that would allow the security agency Shin Bet to make use of Israelis’ cell phone data in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

With the number of infected patients rising to 250 by Monday, israel has shut down schools and universities, restricted public gatherings to just 100 people and ordered a 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the country.

What exactly is being proposed now?

The new measure would allow Shin Bet (Israel’s analog to the FBI) to retroactively track the movements of people found to be infected with the coronavirus. The agency reportedly would not require court approval to perform this surveillance. Anyone who was within two meters of a sick patient will then receive a text message from the Health Ministry saying they should self-quarantine.

It remains unclear whether COVID-19 carriers will need to grant approval for their data to be used by Shin Bet. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office has earlier reassured that the security service would not be involved in enforcing quarantine orders on those who violate them.

A Justice Ministry official told Channel 13 on Sunday that Shin Bet would only…

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