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COVID-19: Israel’s citizens now tracked by their smartphones

Image: Yuuji/E+/Getty Images

Image: Yuuji/E+/Getty Images

UPDATE: Israel’s High Court of Justice put a stop to the tracking on Thursday, March 19. The court declared that the Shin Bet security service may not track confirmed and suspected coronavirus patients if a Knesset panel to oversee this practice isn’t set up by noon Tuesday, according to Israel news agency Haaretz.

Israel’s internal security agency Shin Bet is using citizens’ smartphones to track the locations of people infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as well as anyone they might have had contact with, news agencies are reporting. Some citizens report receiving smartphone alerts when they have been near an infected person.

Privacy concerns. The tracking doesn’t require a court order and records will be kept until the regulations expire, according to Israeli news source Haaretz. The regulation can be renewed, and the country’s Health Ministry can keep the location records for 60 days after the regulation expires.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told The New York Times that the government would approve the plan Monay night. “We have to maintain the balance between the rights of the individual and needs of general society, and we are doing that,” he told the newspaper.

No legislature involved. The plan was reportedly approved by cabinet members without approval of the Knesset, the Israeli legislature, which has just been sworn into office and has not yet convened.

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