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Israel is using counter-terrorism phone surveillance to track Omicron carriers

Published: December 1, 2021
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Rights groups in Israel have called on the country’s top court to repeal the recently announced measures to use the counter-terrorism phone tracking system to track carriers of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The groups raised privacy concerns.

On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced emergency measures including phone tracking to locate those infected by the Omicron variant, which is thought to be more contagious.

The Shin Bet counter-terrorism agency’s phone-tracking technology was to be used to enable to surveillance.

Rights groups have said that the emergency measure is a violation of the Supreme Court’s rulings on such surveillance, which has been used by the country’s domestic intelligence agency since the beginning of the pandemic last year.

“Operation of the Secret Service to trace citizens violates the basic trust between the citizen and the government,” the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), one of four groups who petitioned the court, said in a statement to Reuters.

On Sunday, a senior official in the health ministry said that the use of the phone tracking system would be used carefully, and was only to be used on confirmed and suspected carriers of the new variant.

The phone tracking system can match the carriers of the virus locations to other phones nearby to identify people that might have been exposed.

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