Latest in Gear

Image credit: joseh51camera via Getty Images

Israel barred from COVID-19 phone tracking without new legislation

Its top court insists on privacy protections.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
April 26, 2020
247 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

Tel Aviv Israel April 07, 2020 View of unidentified people walking in the empty streets of Tel Aviv during the quarantine of the population to prevent the spread of the coronavirus
joseh51camera via Getty Images

Israel will have to abide by stricter oversight if it wants to keep tracking the phones of people infected with COVID-19. The country’s Supreme Court has ruled that the government can’t keep tracking residents’ phones unless it drafts legislation covering the practice. It has to start work on the new law by April 30th and complete it within a few weeks. Officials raised “great difficulties” by using a “preventative security service” for tracking peaceful people without their permission, the court said, and journalists were within their rights to get injunctions to protect their sources.

The court added that it was concerned about a “slippery slope” where the government used powerful tools like phone tracking “without justification.”

While the phone tracking hasn’t been detailed in earnest, it’s believed to involve anti-terrorism tech from the Shin Bet domestic security agency. The tracking was used to enforce quarantines, flagging infected people who left home.

The government isn’t happy with the decision. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz claimed the technology made a “critical contribution” to limiting the pandemic and helping businesses reopen. Israel partly lifted lockdown measures on April 26th.

The government won’t have much choice, though, and its approach has been more invasive than most. Other countries have begun rolling out some form of COVID-19 tracking, but usually through contact tracing apps that require consent. It’s another matter to snoop on the whereabouts of infected people without asking or having an established legal framework. The case may serve as a warning to other countries thinking of using similarly aggressive tactics to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
247 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

Two Nigerians face US charges over online fraud worth 'hundreds of millions'

Two Nigerians face US charges over online fraud worth 'hundreds of millions'

View
Animal Crossing fans get real about the fictional NookPhone

Animal Crossing fans get real about the fictional NookPhone

View
Rocket Lab mission fails shortly after launch

Rocket Lab mission fails shortly after launch

View
Boeing is reportedly ending production of its 747 jumbo jet

Boeing is reportedly ending production of its 747 jumbo jet

View
UK may cut Huawei out of 5G networks this year

UK may cut Huawei out of 5G networks this year

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr