Israel approves tracking mobile phones of Covid-19 carriers for rest of year

Country reported about 1,500 new infections on Monday, as it goes through its second wave

Israel’s Parliament voted on Monday to allow the country’s domestic intelligence agency to track the mobile phones of coronavirus carriers for the rest of the year amid a resurgence in new cases.

Shin Bet’s surveillance technology has been used on and off to track carriers since March, and the Knesset in a late-night sitting approved the measure until January 20, its news agency reported.

The security agency tracks location data of confirmed carriers for 14 days before they were diagnosed.

That data is used to identify anyone with whom they came into contact, which supporters say is crucial to infection chains.

The surveillance has brought challenges from privacy watchdog groups, and the Supreme Court said there were worries over dangers to liberty.

It demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government regulate the surveillance through legislation.

The new law includes more oversight, requiring the government to renew its request every three weeks, and it can be used only when new daily cases exceed 200.

Those ordered into isolation can appeal if they believe the data was inaccurate.

The Knesset also instructed the Health Ministry to introduce an upgraded smartphone app that can be downloaded by the public to help track infection.

Israel reopened schools and many businesses in May, lifting restrictions that had flattened the infection curve after a partial lockdown in March.

But a new surge has many public health experts saying the government moved too quickly while neglecting to take the necessary steps to control the pandemic when the economy reopened.

Israel, with a population of 9 million, reported about 1,500 new infections on Monday. It has reported 415 deaths from the virus.

Updated: July 21, 2020 03:06 AM

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