Security Service Secretly Tracking Most Citizens’ Phones for Years

Long before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel’s Shin Bet security service began secretly tracking the cellphones of citizens of the country in a clandestine program that has been going on for at least two and a half years, according to a Channel 13 report televised on Sunday, July 26. The classified program, whose name cannot be revealed under a gag order, was approved by a team of senior Justice Ministry officials, headed by the then-state attorney Shai Nitzan as well as Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, but was never subject to parliamentary oversight, legislation, or any regulations, journalist Raviv Drucker described in his report.

Under the program, the cellphones of most citizens of Israel were exposed to Shin Bet tracking. The report did not specify exactly what type of data was being gathered, though it stated that the security service tapped into databases held by mobile phone companies to harvest information — apparently without the companies’ knowledge. Drucker said that the Justice Ministry initially allowed the service to access personal data of citizens for a six-month period, but subsequently repeatedly extended its permission, for at least two and a half years — and is possibly even in force today.