In Dead of Night, Israel Approves Harsher Coronavirus Tracking Methods Than Gov’t Stated

The Israeli government unanimously passed in the early hours of Tuesday new emergency regulations for tracking the cellphones of coronavirus patients or those suspected of being infected, circumventing the approval of the Knesset in the process.

Ministers authorized the move despite the Justice Ministry's commitment to have it go through the Israeli parliament, which did not have the time to deliberate on the matter.

– Israel’s coronavirus crisis could be Bibi’s swan song. Haaretz weekly podcast

Israel’s coronavirus crisis could be Bibi’s swan song. Haaretz weekly podcast

The regulations sanction the Israel Police to track the cellphones of individuals who tested positive with the virus, or those who are suspected of having caught the disease.

On Saturday, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement that these means will be implemented, the Shin Bet said the technology would not be used to enforce quarantine.

Published in the dead of night in the state records, despite initially  being slated to be confidential, the regulations stated that there will be no need for a court order to collect the data. Normally, a court order is required for something like cellphone tracking, as it is considered a serious invasion of privacy if there is no basis for it.

According to the regulations, the data would be used to notify people who may have come into contact with someone infected with the virus and to enforce quarantine orders.

While the government has promised severe restrictions on its collection, including a requirement that all personal data be deleted after 30 days, the directive said that the data will be deleted when the regulations – which can be extended according to the progression of the virus – expire.