Combating Intrusive Government Surveillance

24 November 2020

Israel’s Supreme Court has required the State of Israel to provide an explanation within three weeks for why it has required those exposed to COVID-19 to download a tracking device onto their phones, regardless of whether they are cooperating with contract tracers.

The petition was filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI), and others.

The petition stresses that by Israeli law the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, is only entitled to handle matters of national security, not civilian affairs, which are the purview of the police. Everyone agrees that the government must proactively seek solutions to the public health crisis. But requiring that citizens install Shin Bet tracking systems represents a severe violation of privacy and individual rights. The civil liberties organizations filing the petition maintain that this requirement is a disproportionate and unjustified violation of individual rights, and unnecessary to meet the urgent public health challenges posed by COVID-19.

The Supreme Court has also asked the state to explain why it is making no effort to develop an alternative tracking system that doesn’t require digital surveillance.

Attorneys Dan Yakir and Gil Gan-Mor said, “The injunction indicates that the Supreme Court sees these means as a grave encroachment on constitutional rights and requires the government and Knesset to explain why the surveillance is continuing despite the substantial improvement in the epidemiological investigation system.”