Sunday, November 27th | 3 Kislev 5783

March 19, 2020 6:23 am

How Shin Bet, Israel Police Will Use Tracking Technology to Battle a New Enemy: COVID-19

avatar by Yaakov Lappin /


An Israeli police officer helps a Health Ministry inspector put on protective gear before they go up to the apartment of a person in self-quarantine as a precaution against coronavirus spread in Hadera, Israel, March 16, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

JNS.orgThe interim Israeli government took the unprecedented step on Monday night of passing emergency regulations to bypass existing law, and equip the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency and the Israel Police with the powers to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) through technological surveillance.

Two separate emergency regulations were brought out by the government: one for the Shin Bet and one for the police, creating separate mechanisms.

The Shin Bet has been instructed by the government to receive the names of infected people from Israel’s Ministry of Health, and then use its technological tracing capabilities to check back 14 days and track down people the infected person got close to. The names of all of the people who fell within a certain vicinity to the infected person in the last two weeks are then sent by the Shin Bet to the Health Ministry. This list could amount to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people.

The Shin Bet’s powerful technology for surveilling such movements is usually in the service of combating terrorism, but some of it will now go to the new mission of slowing the spread of corona. After receiving the list of those who may have been infected by the person in question, the Health Ministry can get in touch with those people and instruct them to go into a two-week isolation period. The ministry can then forward the names on the list to the Israel Police, which can also use technological surveillance services and work with cell-phone companies to monitor their movements, and make sure that isolation orders are being followed.

Related coverage

November 25, 2022 9:47 am

Kevin McCarthy Must Remove Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from All Committees

Antisemitic congresswoman Ilhan Omar is currently attending the World Cup in Qatar with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. This is,...

The government passed emergency legislation for this, rather than expand the Shin Bet Law and provide the security forces with added powers through the more traditional route.

The reason the government acted this way is all because of timing. In order to expand the Shin Bet Law, it’s first necessary to receive the approval of the Knesset’s Shin Bet subcommittee, which operates under the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The latter committee was in the process of discussing the changes when a new Knesset was sworn in on Monday, delaying the proceedings. The government then decided to accelerate the process and employ the emergency regulations, thereby bypassing the Shin Bet Law altogether.

Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman stated that his organization has “answered the request of the professional echelon in the Health Ministry, out of national responsibility and an understanding that we have the ability to save the lives of Israeli citizens.”

When it became clear that other authorities lacked the technological ability to conduct the task, the Shin Bet took on the job, he added. A series of meetings between the Shin Bet, the Justice Ministry, and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit then followed, said Argaman, until the attorney general approved the use of the surveillance technology.

“The Shin Bet is aware of the fact that this form digresses from its continuous activities in counter-terrorism, and therefore, the request was discussed and approved by the attorney general, and set supervision mechanisms were established in the process,” said Argaman.

“As the head of the service, I would like to make clear that the sensitivities of this matter are highly clear to me, and therefore, I have instructed that only a very small team of people from the service will deal with the issue, and that the information will not be stored in the Shin Bet,” he said.

The intelligence service will send the data directly the Health Ministry’s director-general or another health chief, who pledged to use the information only to save lives. The Shin Bet will play no part in enforcement, stressed Argaman.

Yaakov Lappin is a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He specializes in Israel’s defense establishment, military affairs, and the Middle Eastern strategic environment.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.