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Bill Authorizing the Israeli Security Agency to Track Israelis to Combat Coronavirus Passes First Reading

Privacy / Jun 30, 2020

Article written by Haim Ravia, Dotan Hammer and Adi Shoval

The Israeli government’s bill directing the Israeli National Security Agency (“Agency”, colloquially named “Shabak” or “Shin Bet”) to engage in ubiquitous cellular-network based tracking of the whereabouts and movements of Israelis passed its first reading by the Israeli legislature (the Knesset). The bill will become law if approved in second and third (final) readings, which are expected in July.

According to the bill, the Agency’s authority will be subject to a governmental directive approving the tracking for renewable periods of 21 days. The authorization may be general or specific to particular situations, and the Knesset may repeal the government’s directive.

Generally, the bill authorizes the Agency to process identification information, location information, and telecommunication information of Israelis. When a person is confirmed to have contracted coronavirus, the Israeli Ministry of Health (“MoH”) will direct the Agency to provide it with the data of those who were near that person during the previous 14 days. Those people will be located and notified that they had come into contact with an unnamed person who contracted the virus. The Agency is required to retain the information disclosed to the MoH only for 14 days and to immediately delete any subsequent information created.

The bill provides that the MoH is required to notify the person contracted with the virus that it will be obtaining such information about them from the Agency and of how the person may receive more information about the MoH’s request. The MoH is bound to confidentiality and is prohibited from disclosing or transferring the data to any third party. Disclosure of a person’s personal information in violation of the law would be a criminal offense punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment. The Agency will not use the information to corroborate compliance with quarantine requirements and the information will not be used as evidence in any investigation or legal proceeding.

Every two weeks, the Agency will be required to report the number of requests it has processed for the MoH to the Knesset’s committee overseeing the Agency. It will also report the aggregate number of people who were in close proximity to a person who contracted the virus, the status of data deletion, and any irregular eventualities that may have occurred. The MoH will also provide the parliamentary committee with similar reports, including reports assessing how effective the assistance of the Agency is (i.e. how many people exposed to Coronavirus were able to be identified only with the assistance of the Agency).

CLICK HERE to read the bill (in Hebrew).