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Israel: Privacy Protection Authority Objects to Shabak-Run Location Tracking for Coronavirus Epidemiological Investigations

Publications / Sep 01, 2020

Article written by Haim Ravia, Dotan Hammer and Adi Shoval 

The Israeli Privacy Protection Authority (the “PPA”) has released its second opinion regarding the use of the Israeli National Security Agency (the “Shabak”) for tracking the whereabouts of Israelis who were near individuals diagnosed with COVID-19.

In May 2020, the Israeli Government started to use Shabak to assist in Coronavirus epidemiological investigations. The Israeli legislature recently enacted a law authorizing such use of the Shabak’s location tracking tool, at least until January 2021.

In its opinion, the PPA explains that because the COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing event, the use of Shabak’s location tracking tool cannot be justified in the medium and long term. Such use would normalize the violation of privacy and would adversely impact the public’s trust in public authorities. The PPA also questions the effectiveness of the Shabak’s location tracking tool, noting that since July, only a third of COVID-19 patients were identified by the Shabak and that 57% of the appeals filed by individuals who were ordered to self-quarantine due to the Shabak’s location tracking tool, were accepted. The PPA, therefore, calls on the government to seek alternative measures that are more appropriate for long-term use and are less invasive of privacy.

Relatedly, the Civil Rights Association in Israel, together with several other civil rights organizations, filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court against the use of Shabak for epidemiological investigations, stating that the use of the Israeli security agency entails a disproportionate violation of individuals’ right to privacy that may create a slippery slope in the protection of privacy rights in Israel. The Supreme Court denied the petition on the grounds that the pre-litigation discourse between the petitioners and the government were not yet exhausted. However, the plaintiffs intend to formally exhaust that discourse and if necessary, file an additional petition thereafter.

CLICK HERE to read the opinion of the Israeli Privacy Protection Authority (in Hebrew).

CLICK HERE to read the petition filed by the Civil Rights Association (in Hebrew).