COVID-19 Omicron: Government privacy authority questions Shin Bet tracking

On Sunday the Shin Bet had started tracking Omicron infected citizens on the basis of a government decision.

Passengers queue at the Kenya Airways ticket sales counter to book flights as several airlines have stopped flying out of South Africa, amidst the spread of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 28, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/SUMAYA HISHAM)
Passengers queue at the Kenya Airways ticket sales counter to book flights as several airlines have stopped flying out of South Africa, amidst the spread of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 28, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/SUMAYA HISHAM)

The government's own Authority for Privacy on Tuesday told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that it is questionable whether using the Shin Bet is justified for tracking citizens infected by the new coronavirus Omicron variant.

The committee is holding hearings as a prerequisite to moving forward with legislation to authorize Shin Bet tracking potentially as soon as Thursday, but also possibly only next week.

Already on Sunday the Shin Bet had started tracking Omicron infected citizens on the basis of a government decision, despite prior High Court of Justice rulings that this could only be reengaged on the basis of a new Knesset law.

There was a prior Knesset law authorizing Shin Bet tracking of the coronavirus, but it expired this past July. 

A group of NGOs filed a petition with the High Court on Monday to declare the restoration of Shin Bet tracking as illegal, and the justices have already ordered the state to reply by 3:00 p.m. Tuesday.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, November 27, 2021. (credit: KOBI GIDON / GPO) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, November 27, 2021. (credit: KOBI GIDON / GPO)