Israeli police deprived of part of powers to monitor coronavirus patients

A small part of the important surveillance powers put in the hands of the Israeli authorities to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic has just been taken from them.

Since the evening of Wednesday, April 22, the police can no longer use the telephone data to make sure that the sick people of Covid-19 and whose confinement is imposed do not leave their homes. The device, which was put in place urgently in mid-March, allowed the police to randomly select 500 telephone numbers of people who were ordered to confine themselves, to ensure that they respected this obligation. The Israeli data protection authority had unsuccessfully opposed the measure.

Faced with criticism from the Knesset’s Foreign and Defense Committee, the government decided to halt the process while it responded. The latter struggled in particular to provide precise data on the effectiveness of the device, according to the Israeli daily. Haaretz. The police can still visit people whose confinement is compulsory.

Intense surveillance remains

In addition, the authorities still have very intrusive powers of surveillance in terms of contact follow-up, this technique which consists in identifying people surrounded by a patient to isolate them preventively and prevent the virus from circulating. It is the internal intelligence service, the powerful Shin Beth, which is in charge of the device, bringing in the fight against the pandemic instruments usually reserved for the fight against terrorism.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Coronavirus: Israel Approves Mass Electronic Surveillance Methods

Privacy advocates, and even healthcare professionals, have sharply criticized the method, the reliability of which is disputed. According to the authorities, more than 4,600 people at risk have been isolated on the basis of this surveillance technique.

Israel stands out here from many democratic countries, which, in order to digitize contact tracking, prefer to rely on mobile applications based on user information and consent. Austria and Norway have recently launched such applications, and France is considering this. A parliamentary debate is scheduled to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday on the government's implementation plan, called StopCovid.

Read also Coronavirus: what is StopCovid, the tracking app studied by the government?

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