Over the weekend we noted with alarm that the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now tapping counter-terror forces and technology to fight the “invisible enemy” of the coronavorus – as Netanyahu put it in a Saturday address.
“We will very soon begin using technology… digital means that we have been using in order to fight terrorism,” Netanyahu had said. Among these new “emergency measures” include broader domestic phone tapping powers as part of the counter-terror technology initiative, as AP reports:
Netanyahu’s Cabinet on Sunday authorized the Shin Bet security agency to use its phone-snooping tactics on coronavirus patients, an official confirmed, despite concerns from civil-liberties advocates that the practice would raise serious privacy issues. The official spoke on condition of anonymity pending an official announcement.
Ironically enough the outbreak scare has emboldened Netanyahu to admit that much of his plan will “entail a certain degree of violation of privacy.” This extreme overstep action comes as Israel has reached over 200 confirmed Covid-19 cases and has thousands in mandated quarantine.
The technology, which according to the prime minister has “never been used on civilians” – a highly doubtful claim – will help track an infected person’s history of past interactions as well as current whereabouts, ensuring they don’t break isolation, according to the plan.
“They are not minor measures. They entail a certain degree of violation of the privacy of those same people, who we will check to see whom they came into contact with while sick and what preceded that. This is an effective tool for locating the virus,” Netanyahu said.
Well at the very least he was honest about taking Israeli society down the road of Orwellian police state in the name of “protection” from the pandemic. However, we would note that it’s the first we’ve heard of a country openly touting its counter-terror technology and domestic spying as being used to fight the virus, with the exception of China.
Netanyahu said these are “means that until today I have refrained from using among the civilian population.”
— Guy Elster (@guyelster) March 14, 2020
In a clear understatement, yet deeply disturbing nonetheless, one opposition party leader from Meretz party, Nitzan Horowitz noted that tracking citizens “using databases and sophisticated technological means are liable to result in a severe violation of privacy and basic civil liberties.”
Meanwhile, former US special forces soldier and now journalist Jack Murphy put it more bluntly:
Once these “emergency measures” are implemented, they will never ever be repealed.
Likely soon to come to your country, and a neighborhood near you.