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This press statement was originally published on the website of APC member organisation 7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media.

7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media warns of Israel committing mass violations of digital rights, especially the right to privacy, under the pretext of managing the health crisis caused by the Coronavirus.

Last night [14 March], the Israeli Attorney General approved the request of the Prime Minister of Israel to track the movement of people infected with the coronavirus utilizing geolocational tracking via mobile phones and other advanced surveillance technologies.

Monitoring and tracking people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – their location, calls, camera and headsets – under the pretext of preventing the transmission and spread of infection, is a violation of people’s right to privacy. 7amleh urges that any monitoring be done in a way that will ensure that people’s rights are respected and that Israel uphold its obligations to ensure the protection of people’s digital and human rights.

Health data is particularly sensitive and while it may be necessary for authorities to track while they respond to a crisis, collection and processing of health data, including the publication of information online, poses risks to the safety of affected persons and their communities. Health authorities should strictly adhere to a legal basis for these activities and work to ensure that privacy is respected and that the least amount of information is collected to minimize exposure.

The use of surveillance technologies for monitoring,  tracking and controlling people has long been a practice of Israel under the pretext of security in Jerusalem, the West  Bank and Gaza.

This shows how oppressive policies and practices developed and used in contexts of occupation, also end up being used by the occupying power against its own citizens.