Global Freedom of Expression

Israeli Impact on Palestinian Digital Rights During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Key Details

  • Region
    Middle East and North Africa
  • Themes
    Digital Rights, Privacy, Data Protection and Retention

This report was originally published by 7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media and is re-posted here with permission and thanks.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, states are increasingly using dangerous technologies at the cost of protecting fundamental human rights. In March 2020, the Israeli government approved two emergency regulations1 that served two purposes, first; enforcing new social isolation rules, and secondly; tracking the locations of patients infected with the virus. The mission was allocated to Israel’s domestic security agency, the Shin Bet (also known as the General Security Service (GSS) or the Shabak). Privacy and human rights activists have responded with outrage as this is an expansion of the Israeli government’s use of mass surveillance technologies, especially by Shin Bet, and is a further violation of digital rights and human rights.

The purpose of this report is to document the deployment of mass surveillance technologies by Israel during the coronavirus pandemic and explore the impact of these policies and practices on Palestinian digital rights — the right to privacy, freedom of expression and data protection. It also exposes the securitization framework, how the coronavirus has created an opportunity for states to frame policies and practices as necessary for security, leading to expansion and a sense of normalization with mass surveillance in the time of crises.

This report is based on media articles, academic journals and books, as well as position papers and statements from civil society organizations. It begins by looking at the construction of the online surveillance regime in Israel and then focuses on state surveillance during the coronavirus time; presenting online surveillance laws adopted by the Israeli government and its implications on digital rights. The third sections specified mass surveillance technologies used to tackle the coronavirus and highlights the negative impact on the right to privacy and data protection that these technologies can have on all individuals in Israel and the Palestinian occupied territories, including Israeli Jews, as well as how these technologies are used to target specific groups of the population systematically. The adoption of mass surveillance strategies also raises issues of discriminatory policies exposing the ‘technological face’ of Israeli oppression. Finally, to protect digital rights in Israel and Palestinian occupied territories, the paper offers recommendations for ensuring a free, safe and equal digital space for everyone – particularly for social, national and political groups such as Palestinian citizens in Israel and Palestinians of the occupied territories.

Download full report below.


Dr. Nijmeh Ali