Passengers of Arkia Flight 232, which landed in Israel on Monday, were required to choose between isolating in a hotel or consenting to wear an electronic bracelet during home isolation, according to a new decision by the Health Ministry.

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Naama Matarasso is the CEO of Privacy Israel, an organization bringing together experts to promote better privacy practices in Israel. She brings a strong critique of the new measure. 

"What is a bracelet?It's more like an electronic handcuff,” Matarasso said. “Currently, the choices are an invasion of privacy, or entering a hotel that is a form of detention. It is true that hotels are being used for isolation in many countries, but I do not know many countries that put surveillance measures on their citizens to impose isolation."

Uneaten food was placed in the hallways the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem as part of a protest against Israel’s policy of quarantining returning travelers in hotels. December 2021 (Photo: Fada Nar Alden)

Matarasso emphasized that the pilot began without a public discussion, or a transparent database. 

"Any issue of invasion of privacy, which is a fundamental right, should be carried out in legislation,” she explained. “We know they are using GIS [Geographic Information Systems, which analyzes location] surveillance, but I do not recognize a legal right to monitor people in isolation today. This initiative stems from something that, to me, seems not completely legal.”

"Imagine that instead of imposing fines on traffic offenders, they kept track of all the cars"

Lawyer Jonathan Klinger, a digital rights expert, warns of critical weaknesses in the pilot and casts doubt on the need for it. He sees the tracking bracelet as a corrective to flaws in past isolation measures for returning travelers. 

"Before the hotel isolation and tracking bracelets, there were both GIS surveillance and police patrols. The real problem is that they are afraid to enforce the law," Klinger said.

Jonathan Klinger (Photo: Gilad Iluz)

Klinger offers a direct solution to the issue of enforcing legally mandated coronavirus isolation – less tracking and more strict enforcement.

“Instead of enforcing the law and saying, 'if you break the law, we will do something,' they have decided to take more and more measures and I'm not sure we totally understand how these measures work,” he said “I am sure more information security problems will be revealed in two years. We discovered the problem with the GIS only in retrospect, a few months later.”

"It’s as though there was a problem with traffic offenders and instead of giving them fines they would say, let's track all the cars," Klinger continued. 

Another concern is that the operation of the bracelet will be entrusted to a private company. 

"We do not even know exactly what information this handcuff collects and who has access to it," Matarasso said. "There is a growing practice of monitoring civilians during the coronavirus period. I have not seen what alternatives have been considered. We should always be looking for alternatives that infringe on privacy the least."