• ACRI

Success! ACRI Severely Limits Shin Bet Tracking


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On 24.9.20, ACRI, on behalf of the Adalah Center, Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, and Privacy Israel, filed a fourth petition to the High Court of Justice against the use of Shin Bet's mass surveillance capabilities to track civilians during the COVID-19 crisis.


Following our previous petition, the HCJ ruled that the government could not continue to authorize the Shin Bet to track civilians via emergency regulations, and that to continue doing so, special legislation must be passed. Furthermore, the HCJ ruled that the proportionality of using the Shin Bet's mass surveillance in civilian matters must be examined, and alternatives should be proposed.


Since this decision, the government passed special legislation authorizing the mass surveillance, and as such ACRI has filed a petition arguing that the law is unconstitutional in authorizing a tool intended for national security purposes to be used for civilian matters. Mass surveillance used in this matter is disproportionate, infringes on privacy and freedom, and sets an unjustified precedent of suspending human rights.


In the petition, we argue that the Shin Bet uses a "monstrous" database of communications data created under Section 11 of the General Security Services Law, and that it is doubtful whether such a database is constitutional even for national security needs.


On 17.11.2020, the High Court issued a conditional order demanding that the government explain within 21 days why the Shin Bet services are not used strictly in cases where patients are not cooperating with the epidemiological investigation, and why the consensual app “Shield 2” is not being promoted by the government as an alternative.


On 1.3.2021, the High Court accepted our claims that the broad surveillance severely violates human rights, and ordered that the program as we have come to know it for the past year will be put to an end. The verdict stipulated that the government must draw up clear regulations for using the Shin Bet tracking by 14.3.21, and can only further use the tool strictly in cases in which citizens don't cooperate or recall their whereabouts during epidemiological investigations.


Background on ACRI petitions against the Shin Bet Tracking:


  1. On 28.7.2020, after the law was amended and extended until March 2021, the High Court dismissed the petition, allowing ACRI to submit a new petition against the amended version of the law.

  2. On 16.8.2020, ACRI filed a new petition alongside Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights - Israel and Privacy Israel, where we put forth similar arguments. On 31.8.2020, the High Court rejected the petition upon receipt, effectively accepting the position of the State Attorney’s Office, while claiming the petitioners did not meet the preliminary requirements for filing the petition.

  3. On 24.9.2020, we once again filed a petition with Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights - Israel and Privacy Israel. In addition to the previous arguments put forth, we argued that nearly three months after the renewal of the Shin Bet surveillance, it is apparent that this tool is ineffective, and that data shows that its contribution to the fight against the spread of COVID-19 is extremely marginal. Only a fifth of the carriers have been identified through the Shin Bet, and at a cost of nearly 600,000 individuals in quarantine. Working with the Shin Bet is delaying the development of the epidemiological investigation process, and hurting the willingness of citizens to install the “Shield 2” voluntary contact-tracing app.

  4. On 17.11.2020, the High Court issued a conditional order demanding that the government explain within 21 days why the Shin Bet services are not used strictly in cases where patients are not cooperating with the epidemiological investigation, and why the consensual app “Shield 2” is not being promoted by the government as an alternative.

  5. On 1.3.21, a majority of an expanded seven justice panel of the High Court of Justice ruled on ACRI's petition to limit continued use of Shin Bet surveillance of coronavirus-infected citizens. The two main limitations the court placed on the surveillance were to draw up clear regulations for its continued use by March 14, as well as an order that after that date it can only be used in limited circumstances, mainly when civilians refuse to cooperate with epidemiological investigations or cannot recall with whom they've met.


HCJ 6732/20 - Abridged English Version


For background on previous related petitions (English)

For further information (Hebrew)