The Israeli government extended once again the use of the Israeli Security Agency (colloquially called “Shabak”) in tracing the whereabouts of individuals as part of epidemiological investigations to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

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

While the Israeli government continues to extend the use of the Shabak's tool from time to time, the Israeli Privacy Protection Authority and the State Comptroller question the efficiency and lawfulness of the tool.

A recent report by the State Comptroller indicates that only 3.5%-4.5% of people who were required to self-quarantine due to the Shabak's contact tracing tool turned out to have actually contracted the virus, compared to 24% of people who were ordered the same following an ordinary epidemiological investigation. The report also indicates at least four instances where the Shabak deviated from the scope of its authority in violation of individuals' right to privacy. According to the Shabak, the Ministry of Health Office is not leveraging the Shabak's abilities in the most efficient way and there are many gaps in the work process between the two bodies. This in turn causes the Shabak's investigations to still require the supplementary use of other forms of epidemiological investigations. Nonetheless, the State Comptroller's report concludes that approximately 40%-60% of COVID-19 patients were traced using the Shabak's tool.

In addition, the Privacy Protection Authority's sixth opinion on the matter calls on the Israeli government to use alternative tools for epidemiological investigations, leveraging the Shabak only where a patient refuses to cooperate with the ordinary epidemiological investigation. The authority warns that the continued use of the Shabak's tool dramatically violates the right to privacy, especially due to recent initiatives that seek to expand the scope of the information collected by the Shabak and allow its disclosure to additional parties other than the Ministry of Health.

CLICK HERE to read the State Comptroller's report (in Hebrew).

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

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