Israel Halts Controversial Phone Tracking Tech to Track Down New COVID-19 Variant

Israel on Thursday announced to halt the use of a controversial phone tracking technology to trace possible cases of the new coronavirus variant. It comes just days after the country authorized an emergency measure.

Earlier this week, the Israeli government announced a package of emergency measures to contain the new variant, including travel restrictions and authorizing the country’s internal security agency to use the phone monitoring technology for contact tracing people infected by the omicron variant.

The tracking was authorized under emergency regulations and would have required parliamentary legislation in order to continue the practice. But late Thursday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said the “cellular monitoring” would expire at midnight and not be extended.
The reversal came following days of public criticism of a practice whose use in the past has been criticized by civil liberties groups and challenged in court. Several Cabinet members voted against using the technology, and a government ombudsman argued that it was ineffective.