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March 26, 2020 3:54 pm

Controversial Mass Surveillance Program Has Identified 500 Coronavirus Patients, Shin Bet Says

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Health Ministry inspectors speak with a woman in self-quarantine as a precaution against coronavirus spread in Hadera, Israel, March 16, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

More than 500 coronavirus patients have been identified in Israel so far by a controversial digital mass-surveillance program, the Shin Bet internal security service revealed on Thursday.

“Without quickly finding them and putting them into quarantine, they surely would have unknowingly infected many more people,” a Shin Bet statement said.

The Shin Bet noted it had been working with the Health Ministry over the past two weeks to track — using cellphone and credit card data, among other information — the movements of Israelis who had tested positive for coronavirus and others who had been in their vicinity.

Critics of the program have largely focused on privacy concerns.

A ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice earlier this week allowed the program to continue.

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