JERUSALEM (NWN) – Israel said Thursday that it is blocking the use of a controversial phone tracking technology to trace possible cases of the new coronavirus variant.
Earlier this week, the government approved travel restrictions and authorized the country’s internal security agency to use phone surveillance technology to contact people infected with the Omicron variant in Israel.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said in a statement that emergency measures authorizing “cellular surveillance” of people infected with Omicron, and who may have been in contact with those cases, would expire at midnight.
The decision to reverse course on the tracking of the Shin Bet came after the cabinet on Tuesday approved the exercise as an emergency measure. A government ombudsman spoke out against implementing the technology, arguing that it was ineffective.
Health Minister Nitzen Horowitz said on Twitter that “from the outset I noted that the use of this tool would be limited and brief – for a few days, with the new, unknown version of the virus to obtain immediate information on how to prevent infection.”
He said that “along with protecting health, we must also protect privacy and human rights in emergency situations.”
Israeli rights groups had blocked the use of the technology, which can track where a person is and who they have met, as a violation of privacy rights. The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that its use would be limited.