‘Lockdowns, travel bans and the shuttering of businesses are among the unprecedented restrictions governments are imposing worldwide in an effort to hamper the spread of a highly contagious new coronavirus.
But the real danger posed by the coronavirus must not be used to justify invasive surveillance that violates the right to privacy, civil liberties and human rights groups say.
A massive and hitherto unreported data collection scheme employed by Israel’s domestic spy agency, the Shin Bet, was made public in recent days as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved its use to stymie the spread of the coronavirus.
Netanyahu bypassed Israel’s parliament to approve emergency measures allowing the Shin Bet to use mobile phone geolocation and other advanced surveillance technologies to track people who have violated quarantine orders and alert those who have been in their vicinity.
The directive would allow for the use of the data for 30 days.
The New York Times reported that the data in question has been secretly gathered for decades under the guise of combating terror.
“The existence of the data trove and the legislative framework under which it is amassed and used have not previously been reported,” the paper stated.
The New York Times added that the Shin Bet “has been quietly but routinely collecting cellphone metadata since at least 2002.”
The spy agency has not “disclosed details about what information it collects, how that data is safeguarded, whether or when any of it is destroyed or deleted, who has access to it and under what conditions, or how it is used.”
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