Coronavirus outbreak raises concerns over privacy violations

On Monday Israel announced that all those entering the country from abroad would be required to spend 14 days in home isolation and follow the guidelines it set out.

A paramedic wearing a protective suit stands near a special polling station set up by Israel's election committee so Israelis under home-quarantine, such as those who have recently travelled back to Israel from coronavirus hot spots, can vote in Israel's national election, in Ashkelon, Israel March  (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
A paramedic wearing a protective suit stands near a special polling station set up by Israel's election committee so Israelis under home-quarantine, such as those who have recently travelled back to Israel from coronavirus hot spots, can vote in Israel's national election, in Ashkelon, Israel March
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
As coronavirus spreads across the globe, the challenge of keeping people from contracting the virus requires knowing when and where those who tested positive have been and releasing their private information to the public.
On Monday Israel announced that  all those entering the country from abroad would be required to spend 14 days in home isolation and follow the guidelines it set out.
Police and the Health Ministry said Tuesday that they have set up dedicated task forces composed of police officers and inspectors to prevent the spread of the virus. The teams will ensure that all people in isolation comply with the ministry’s guidelines, a statement explained.
Police will have access to data about the comings and goings of civilians in and out of the country through the Interior Ministry to help them track travelers and check up on them.
However, some are concerned that police will continue accessing this data after an individual's quarantine has ended.
“With all due respect, even if we must ensure compliance with quarantine orders, it is unreasonable to allow mass surveillance of all Israeli citizens by the Shin Bet," Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, Senior Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, said in a statement.
 "This is both an unreasonable and illegal act, which severely compromises people’s privacy, and provides Shin Bet with access to sensitive information on all citizens," Shwartz Altshuler added. “Managing the current crisis requires setting up a clear and transparent mechanism which will make it possible to access the needed information from cellular or credit companies, without involving the Shin Bet." 
"…Advance notice must be given to anyone whose information is being collected – especially those whose physical location is being monitored. In addition, there must be a definition of who has access to this information, along with a guarantee to protect privacy," she said.
"The information must be protected by the Ministry of Health for a period not exceeding 14 days – that is, for the duration of the quarantine period, following which, the Ministry of Health must delete the information it has received. As long as a state of civil emergency has not been declared, the police continue to be subject to the usual restrictions which apply to them as a matter of routine," Shwartz Altshuler wrote.


Tags privacy