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New Law Authorizing Israel Security Agency to Track Individuals Amid the Fight Against Covid-19

Privacy / Jul 30, 2020

Article written by Haim Ravia, Dotan Hammer and Adi Shoval

The Israeli legislature (the “Knesset”) enacted a law authorizing the Israeli Security Agency (colloquially named the “Shabak”) to monitor the whereabouts of individuals to easily trace those who were in proximity to a person diagnosed with COVID-19.

The law replaces extends and enhances the previous law which provisionally authorized Shabak to track individuals’ location data via their cellular devices. The new law will be in effect until January 2021. Under the new law, the government may order the Shabak to monitor the location of individuals to assist in epidemiological investigations and tracking those who were near a person who was found to have contracted the virus in the preceding 14 days. Such order will be valid for 21 days at a time, and only if there are more than 200 individuals tested positive for Coronavirus per day (currently Israel is at around 10 times that figure). The government’s order will be subject to approval by the designated Knesset committee.

The law also clarifies that a person who receives notice to self-quarantine may appeal the decision by providing a declaration that they were not at that given location at the relevant time. In that case, the Ministry of Health is required to provide its final decision as to the quarantine requirement within 24 hours.

The law was passed by the Knesset despite the Israeli Privacy Protection Authority’s opinion that the use of the Shabak’s tool egregiously violates the right to privacy and cannot be justified for long-term use. The Privacy Protection Authority recommended the use of the “Shield II”, the contact-tracing app developed by the Ministry of Health, as a better alternative to the Shabak’s tool.

CLICK HERE to read the law authorizing the Shabak’s contact-tracking, as enacted (in Hebrew).

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