Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Health, Privacy, and Shin Bet Surveillance

 

Israel is re-opening the economy, and the world is watching our success story against COVID-19. Many parameters probably played a role in reducing the health impact of the virus. Still, it seems that closing the borders early and the outstanding behavior of the population are the main factors. The overwhelming majority of Israelis agreed to make drastic changes to save lives. This behavior isn’t unusual, Israelis live permanently in a state of emergency, almost instinctively, we come together in solidarity and unity at times of danger. But, the citizens also dictated the end of the strict lockdowns when the economic and emotional cost became unbearable. As days passed, and the virus felt less devastating than previously thought citizens demanded an end of the restrictions, leaving no choice to our government than to relax the most coercive legislation.

However, there is a tool that our government used during this crisis: military-grade surveillance on private citizens, and even as we return to our “normal” life, this monitoring persists. The use of such surveillance was defended as a tool for saving lives through contact tracing of the infection. It turns out that this system, operated by the Shin Bet, only helped reveal a minuscule number of cases. Despite those poor results, we are still under full surveillance even after the containment of the virus and return to “normal” activities. Detailed information about every single aspect of our life is being watched and stored by government agencies. They know who we meet, how long we spend with our friends, where we shop, where we walk. They trace every action we take during the day. It’s often described as one of the most intrusive surveillance systems in the world and with the exception of China, no other countries have deployed such monitoring in their fight against COVID-19.

In fact, until a few weeks ago, this type of surveillance had only been used against suspected terrorists. Have we all become suspected terrorists in the eyes of our government?

Some will say that they have nothing to hide, and that surveillance is only a small imposition for saving a life, but the choice isn’t between privacy or health, we can have them both. The Health ministry app, HAMAGEN, is already less intrusive to our privacy than the Shin Bet run surveillance. It is open-source, offering higher transparency than military software and presumably anonymous. Unfortunately, the data collected is stored in a centralized server susceptible to a single point of failure in case of a human mistake or an enemy attack. More secure decentralized solutions based on blockchain technology already started to appear on the market. Our start-up nation is undoubtedly capable of building a decentralized, open-source, anonymous application that will excel at contact tracing and respect our privacy.

Defaulting to the most intrusive surveillance system shows that our government doesn’t place any value on our privacy and security.

Israelis are aware of the dangers of using such surveillance, on the civilian population. In a survey administered by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies on April 1, 67% of the respondents expressed concern about the use of surveillance on private citizens, and 55% doubted that the government would cancel civilian monitoring after the crisis.

A month later, the Shin Bet surveillance is still going strong, with no sign that the government will ever want to cancel it. Our Prime Minister even proudly raised the idea of placing ankle bracelets on children that would buzz when they don’t practice social distancing. This proposal isn’t a new episode of “Black Mirror” or a scene from 1984; this is our Prime Minister talking on national television during his latest press conference (from minute 22).

It is time for each of us to think about the world our families will live in tomorrow; this is a fight for our home. If Israeli citizens fail to demand the immediate cancellation of this military-grade monitoring on our phones and internet activities by the Shin Bet agency, it will become a permanent feature of our lives.

A national discussion needs to take place in total transparency between the government and its citizens. It is not appropriate, to say the least, that such an emergency measure, never activated before in Israel, will be swept through the Knesset without substantial national deliberations and dialogue with the citizens.

Contact tracing may be a necessity, but it needs to be entirely voluntary and based on reciprocal trust between the government and the citizens. As the citizens trust the government to protect them, the government needs to trust its citizens to do the right thing and stop monitoring them like suspected terrorists.

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  1. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    contact tracing sounds great in theory but in practice it depends on who is doing the tracing.

    I’m not sure if tracing would be effective now.

    Isn’t it too late? Aren’t we past the point of tracing?

    Wouldn’t it be better to focus on anti-body testing?

     

    • #1
    • May 10, 2020, at 12:43 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Zafar Member

    It’s happening in India

    https://www.asiapacificsecuritymagazine.com/the-covid-surveillance/

    Govts might find it hard to resist once they start

     

    • #2
    • May 10, 2020, at 1:08 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  3. Corinne Parenti Coolidge
    Corinne Parenti

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    contact tracing sounds great in theory but in practice it depends on who is doing the tracing.

    I’m not sure if tracing would be effective now.

    Isn’t it too late? Aren’t we past the point of tracing?

    Wouldn’t it be better to focus on anti-body testing?

     

    That would indeed make sense, but the government argument to keep surveillance is for the “next” wave…

    • #3
    • May 10, 2020, at 3:18 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. Hang On Member
    Hang On Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Governments trust their citizens less and less. It will lead to wholesale institutional failure. 

    • #4
    • May 10, 2020, at 3:40 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Kevin Schulte Member

    Corinne Parenti: In fact, until a few weeks ago, this type of surveillance had only been used against suspected terrorists.

    That’s what the Bush people told us. Ha ha ha ha. Everyone one is spied on . You are only anonymous if you are not a “person of interest”. Example, Trump. 

    The biggest impact is on those who govern  rule over us. Since all their secrets are known, they will all be owned. If nothing known, the task is to compromise the person of interest or destroy them. This is why people like me think we have a uni party in DC. The same people call the shots on both sides. Everything moves in one direction with little deviation. 

    • #5
    • May 10, 2020, at 5:34 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Flicker Coolidge

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Governments trust their citizens less and less. It will lead to wholesale institutional failure.

    What is it you mean by institutional failure?

    • #6
    • May 10, 2020, at 6:04 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Jules PA Member

    A cursory examination of General Flynn’s situation should disabuse most people of the neutrality of government surveillance. 

    Well, at least those people who think what the government did to Flynn was egregious will see the downside of ubiquitous surveillance.

    And there is my point: so long as the government hasn’t put a target on your back, yeah, government surveillance is a great tool to keep you safe. 

    • #7
    • May 10, 2020, at 7:37 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  8. philo Member

    A worthy continuation of this conversation.

    • #8
    • May 10, 2020, at 8:33 AM PDT
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  9. Hang On Member
    Hang On Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Flicker (View Comment):

    What is it you mean by institutional failure?

    We are in the midst of it with FBI, CIA, NSA, universities. The elites of this country are doing a terrible job and have for a couple of decades. All the homeland security legislation was just proof of the level of distrust. It’s not partisan. Both parties are guilty.

    • #9
    • May 10, 2020, at 8:39 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    What is it you mean by institutional failure?

    We are in the midst of it with FBI, CIA, NSA, universities. The elites of this country are doing a terrible job and have for a couple of decades. All the homeland security legislation was just proof of the level of distrust. It’s not partisan. Both parties are guilty.

    Democrats are much much worse

     

    • #10
    • May 11, 2020, at 10:48 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    A cursory examination of General Flynn’s situation should disabuse most people of the neutrality of government surveillance.

    Well, at least those people who think what the government did to Flynn was egregious will see the downside of ubiquitous surveillance.

    And there is my point: so long as the government hasn’t put a target on your back, yeah, government surveillance is a great tool to keep you safe.

    Flynn was the target of Obama and FBI

     

    • #11
    • May 11, 2020, at 10:49 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Kevin Schulte (View Comment):

    Corinne Parenti: In fact, until a few weeks ago, this type of surveillance had only been used against suspected terrorists.

    That’s what the Bush people told us. Ha ha ha ha. Everyone one is spied on . You are only anonymous if you are not a “person of interest”. Example, Trump.

    The biggest impact is on those who govern rule over us. Since all their secrets are known, they will all be owned. If nothing known, the task is to compromise the person of interest or destroy them. This is why people like me think we have a uni party in DC. The same people call the shots on both sides. Everything moves in one direction with little deviation.

    The Tea Party and Trump are reactions to the uni party in DC, i.e. the deep state, aka the swamp

     

    • #12
    • May 11, 2020, at 10:50 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. Danny Alexander Inactive

    Ami Ayalon was never indicted, much less convicted and incarcerated. This failure, almost 25 years ago, set the stage in Israel for what the OP laments about the present day. It’s a form of persistent ideological rot — new surveillance tools simply highlight the durability of this rot.

    And yes, when I say “ideological,” I mean leftist — to borrow MISTER BITCOIN’s phrasing, Israel’s counterparts to the Democrats are objectively much, much worse.

    • #13
    • May 13, 2020, at 1:21 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  14. Lockdowns are Precious Inactive
    Lockdowns are Precious Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    • #14
    • May 13, 2020, at 11:51 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Ontheleftcoast Member

    Corinne Parenti: Contact tracing may be a necessity, but it needs to be entirely voluntary and based on reciprocal trust between the government and the citizens.

    It is much less effective if it’s voluntary. Clinical public health measures are intrusive and compromise individual liberty.

    Some non-clinical ones, too. You can’t put an outhouse in your back yard or a cesspool in your basement. Residential building codes include regulations on how many residents per square foot of space, mandate egress windows and ventilation, and so on. All of these are public health related intrusions on your right to use your property as you see fit.

    The zombie wars meme reflects the reality that there are some epidemics that are so bad that it’s reasonable to use massive lethal force to protect the uninfected.

    COVID-19 wasn’t that.

    The conundrum is that if you switch from locking everyone down to quarantining the infected, it is intrusive to identify and track the infected even as some liberties are regained. And secret police are going to be secret police whenever and wherever they exist. This erodes trust; you are right that reciprocal trust between government and citizens is important.

     

    • #15
    • May 13, 2020, at 11:52 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  16. Hammer, The Member

    …or maybe none of those things are factors. The post hoc ergo propter hoc is not necessarily always incorrect (in conclusion, anyway), but it is happening a lot with this pandemic. I strongly suspect that “the outstanding behavior” of citizens has much less of an impact than supposed. But government’s very much want us to behave “outstandingly” (i.e. not question things), and that is deeply concerning, especially in the US.

    • #16
    • May 13, 2020, at 11:59 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Ontheleftcoast Member

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Govts might find it hard to resist once they start

    Governments find it hard to resist any expansion of reach and power once they start. Bureaucracies of all kinds do.

    Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

     First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

    Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

    The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

     

    • #17
    • May 13, 2020, at 12:09 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  18. Roderic Coolidge

    Here is America it’s possible for researchers to track the public’s movement through cellphone data. That’s the basis for estimating social distancing used by one group of epidemiologists.

    You may have noticed how if you visit a brick and mortar store you start seeing ads for that company popping up on web sites. They track us through mobile phones, credit cards, web sites and a number of ways. A fairly complete picture of a person can be constructed from such data, and that could be used to tell whether or not they are socially distancing.

    Car insurance companies have sold a lot of people on the idea that if they give phone GPS data to the insurance company that they can get a discount for good driving. The insurance company has a complete record of all of people’s car trips that way. Non-essential trips could be easily spotted.

    I pay cash at the liquor store because I want no record to be made of the sale with my name attached to it, but they still have the GPS and cellphone data.

    If the government wanted to use that data it seems to me they’d have little trouble doing it.

    Nobody has anything to hide, right?

    • #18
    • May 13, 2020, at 12:40 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  19. Hammer, The Member

    Roderic (View Comment):

    Here is America it’s possible for researchers to track the public’s movement through cellphone data. That’s the basis for estimating social distancing used by one group of epidemiologists.

    You may have noticed how if you visit a brick and mortar store you start seeing ads for that company popping up on web sites. They track us through mobile phones, credit cards, web sites and a number of ways. A fairly complete picture of a person can be constructed from such data, and that could be used to tell whether or not they are socially distancing.

    Car insurance companies have sold a lot of people on the idea that if they give phone GPS data to the insurance company that they can get a discount for good driving. The insurance company has a complete record of all of people’s car trips that way. Non-essential trips could be easily spotted.

    I pay cash at the liquor store because I want to record to be made of the sale with my name attached to it, but they still have the GPS and cellphone data.

    If the government wanted to use that data it seems to me they’d have little trouble doing it.

    Nobody has anything to hide, right?

    Some of us turn off the location services on our phones… more of us should do that.

    • #19
    • May 13, 2020, at 12:45 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thieves have been convicted because they left their cell phones at home when the Deed was done. That was enough proof of illegal intent.

    • #20
    • May 13, 2020, at 1:20 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hammer, The (View Comment):

     

    Some of us turn off the location services on our phones… more of us should do that.

    It does not matter much. The phone is still being tracked.

    • #21
    • May 13, 2020, at 1:22 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  22. philo Member

    Hammer, The (View Comment): Some of us turn off the location services on our phones

    That part made me giggle (through the tears, of course).

    • #22
    • May 13, 2020, at 1:40 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. Hammer, The Member

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Governments trust their citizens less and less. It will lead to wholesale institutional failure.

    I just had a conversation with a judge at my courthouse (not 6 feet apart, neither of us wearing masks). I asked him a question – let us stipulate that covid is worse than the flu (I don’t necessarily believe that, but for the sake of argument, it was stipulated). We have a harm that is X-risk, in the flu. Lots of people get it, some people die. We ask people to wash their hands, cover their coughs, and generally be a bit more careful during flu season. Now we have covid, which is X+1 risk. I don’t think the risk is significantly higher, so I’m only giving it X+1. But at what number are these draconian measures justified? X+1? X+100? We have virtually the same risk-groups, we have a pretty darned similar transmission mode and rate, as far as anyone really knows… but we’ve gone from “accepted part of life” all the way to what in some places amount to martial law, and in other places amounts to a complete elimination of privacy rights, and in virtually all places has resulted in a complete circumvention of the legislative process as all of these measures are dictated.

    I’d like the powers that be to explain to me where we draw that line.

    • #23
    • May 13, 2020, at 3:25 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. Hammer, The Member

    philo (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (View Comment): Some of us turn off the location services on our phones

    That part made me giggle (through the tears, of course).

    Fair enough. I would expect that companies would emerge to meet the demand of consumers who do not wish to be tracked. In the very least, we might expect that cell-phone data gets somewhat lost in the noise, and small comfort as it may be, it is currently illegal to use that information in court. When it comes to things like “contact tracing,” where they want you to put down your contact information at every place you visit, I will expect to see significantly more pushback. Personally, I plan to have a false name/address on hand if our governor declares it a prerequisite to visiting restaurants. If required to show ID, I will not be visiting restaurants. Again, there are many that will hopefully refuse to comply with something like that.

    • #24
    • May 13, 2020, at 3:29 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    contact tracing may work in Israel or S. Korea

    The US population is too big and diverse.

    Also, we still haven’t figured out testing. How can you trace if you can’t test properly?

     

    • #25
    • May 13, 2020, at 10:36 PM PDT
    • Like
  26. Front Seat Cat Member

    How do you know that Israel is using its military systems to spy on its citizens for the sake of finding out who is carrying the virus? Did they come out and say so? I don’t doubt it, but I am wondering, as well as @zafar comment, how you know? Is this unfolding country by country as we speak? Not talking about ones that already do it like China………

    • #26
    • May 14, 2020, at 6:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. Ontheleftcoast Member

    In the US, it’s all being collected. All the time. By the government, position data by our cell phone providers. By Alexa, by your FitBit, your Roomba. Everything collected by corporations can be—often is or will be—sold. If we’re unimportant enough, it’s still too expensive to do something with the data except market stuff to us. If we are suspected of a crime, that changes. Even if the crime is merely to offend someone in power or to know someone who has. If enough power has taken enough offense, a crime will be manufactured against anybody. Just as Gen. Flynn about that.

    But who does the manufacturing?

    I keep coming back to the thought, why are police not pushing back to say, “no! Your order violates amendments to the US and State Constitutions.

    I had a discussion awhile back with my best friend who is a retired city police officer about just this subject. His opinion was he was hired to enforce the laws of the city of which he worked for and to “let the people in black ropes [sic] sort it out.” Interesting position huh? I would suspect that the majority of LEO’s share his opinion. I think it is a position that, in their own minds, pardons them of executing EO’s or laws that violate their US and State Constitutions.

    This mindset is not just a local or state one held by LEO’s, it walks the halls of the FBI, DOJ, BATF&E, etc. Just look at what is coming into the light concerning the Lt. General Flynn drama. Yes, it is apparent that the FBI’s goal with Flynn was to get him fired, have him serve time in jail or discredit him. Let’s add to this drama several others that revolve around President Trump and of course former Sec. of State, Clinton. So, when does it stop? When do LEO’s honor their Oath of Office and push back on leader’s unlawful EO’s or laws?

    There are County Sheriffs, City & local police that refuse the unlawful EO’s or laws from their Political Bosses however, they seem to be the few when compared to the others who’s [sic] actions are in violation of their Oath of Office.

    But in a way, (technological means and swearing to protect and defend the Constitution aside,) it has always been like that for people who somehow managed to get in the way of those in power. When the state is lean, secret policemen are too busy dealing with real enemies foreign and domestic to bother with obedient little people. But as the state grows. . .

    What’s new is that the technological means available to track violations of Stay In Place. Social distancing. Failure to vaccinate. Because violating those orders makes you an enemy of the Public Health. Or an enemy of The Science. The 97% consensus of All Medical/Climate/Environmental Scientists kind of science, too.

    • #27
    • May 14, 2020, at 8:19 AM PDT
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  28. Ontheleftcoast Member

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How can you trace if you can’t test properly?

    That depends on what your goals are with tracing (or “tracing”) and testing (or “testing.”) The following comports with what I remember of the era:

    Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks often of his experience from the earliest stages of the AIDS epidemic and is now advising the USA to implement contact tracing for COVID as a key element in the plan to reopen our economy. Try as I might, I cannot find any online reference to Fauci recommending contract tracing for AIDS. In a 2005 interview broadcast on NHPBS, Fauci was asked: “What do you see as some of the missed opportunities (of dealing with AIDS) in the United States in the early years?”

    Fauci didn’t mention contact tracing in his response, but he did say: “It may have been better to be much more aggressive in those very early years about targeting populations, such as the gay population, about safe sex … But I can tell you, having been there, the gay population themselves were very reluctant to hear the safe-sex message, because they were concerned that they had just recently won their sexual liberation that they had fought so many years for, and they didn’t want this disease to be used as a way to re-target them.”

    . . .Fauci hasn’t survived government service for over 50 years without being politically malleable, and he bent to pressure from homosexual activists early on.

    Although HIV in the first decades of the epidemic was a death sentence, and the biggest vector for transmission was anal sex, Fauci didn’t seem to push for contact tracing. Writing in a 1993 edition of The Atlantic, Chandler Burr said that just before the FDA approved the first HIV test, two powerful homosexual lobbies filed petitions to prevent the CDC from screening homosexual men. The CDC buckled and declared it would use HIV tests only to screen the blood supply.

    “U.S. officials had no alternative but to negotiate the course of AIDS policy with representatives of a well-organized gay community and their allies in the medical and political establishments,” wrote Ronald Bayer, a professor at the Columbia University School of Public Health. “In this process, many of the traditional practices of public health that might have been brought to bear were dismissed as inappropriate.”

    AIDS thus became the first politically protected disease and Dr. Fauci was complicit. . . .

    “During the first years of the disease,” said Burr, “legislation urged by civil libertarians (like the ACLU) prohibited physicians and public-health officials from notifying even the spouses of living people who had tested positive for HIV (emphasis mine), some of whom continued to have unprotected sex with their partners.”

    . . .Is Fauci still more sensitive to political pressure than to science? You be the judge.

    • #28
    • May 14, 2020, at 10:22 AM PDT
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