Skip to main content

Israel’s top court weighs coronavirus surveillance technology

Israel's High Court has held an emergency hearing on the government's use of cyber technologies to track carriers and suspected carriers of the novel coronavirus.
Israeli Health Ministry inspectors put on protective gear before they go up to the apartment of a person in self quarantine as a precaution against coronavirus spread in Hadera, Israel March 16, 2020 REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun - RC23LF9W9DN6

Israel's High Court of Justice will decide whether to suspend the use of controversial cyber technology that would allow the government to track the movements of people infected with the novel coronavirus and those believed to be carrying it.

On March 16, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bypassed Knesset approval and signed off on the security agency Shin Bet tracing the affected individuals cell phones. The technology had previously been used to monitor Palestinians suspected of involvement in terror activities.

Netanayhu defended the cyber monitoring as a necessary measure to stop the spread of the virus, while noting that it would “entail a certain degree of violation of privacy.” The government says the technology would allow it to inform unsuspecting Israelis that they had come into contact with an infected individual.

Haaretz reports that the High Court held an urgent hearing this morning on the tracking, which went into effect on March 17. The Arab Joint List, the Association for Civil Rights and Adalah—the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights claim in petitions they filed that Israel’s use of counterterrorism technology for coronavirus tracking infringes on the civil liberties of citizens. 

“The government cannot bypass the legislature and hide behind a general state of emergency to commit such extreme human rights violations,” Adalah asserted in a statement. “This crosses a red line no less troubling than the coronavirus epidemic itself.”

Knesset member and Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh called on the government to “immediately halt spying on citizens.”

“The Joint List will not allow Benjamin Netanyahu to obliterate a basic civil right in the middle of the night,” he said in a statement. 

Israel's Ministry of Health reported an additional 96 case of coronavirus infection since yesterday, bringing the total number to 529. There are 44 reported cases in the West Bank and none so far in Gaza.

Netanyahu said the government will begin conducting at least 3,000 coronavirus tests a day, and within the next two weeks, scale up to 10,000 per day.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial