Report: Shin Bet Has Been Tracking Israeli Phones for Years

A technician fixes security cameras located near the Old City of Yerushalayim in 2012. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

The Shin Bet has conducted a classified digital surveillance program monitoring Israeli citizens’ phones in an effort to trace supporters of the Islamic State terrorist group, Channel 13 News reported Sunday.

The report comes on the heels of a controversy regarding the Shin Bet’s mass surveillance program aimed at tracking citizens who had contracted the coronavirus and were ordered to undergo quarantine, with critics citing concerns over privacy rights and civil liberties.

However, the phone tracking aimed at flushing out terrorist sympathizers dates back to at least two years prior to the start of the coronavirus pandemic; it was not clear whether it was still ongoing.

The program, under which the phones of “the majority” of Israelis where subject to monitoring by the Shin Bet, was not approved by the Knesset, according to the report, which cited anonymous sources.

Channel 13 said they were not at liberty to cite the official name of the program, and have thus named it “Dark Box.” According to the report, the program involved “tapping into the cellular companies’ massive databases without their knowledge.”

Responses to the report on social media included comparisons to the 2013 scandal sparked by the actions of Edward Snowden, a former contractor with the U.S. National Security Agency, who leaked thousands of classified documents to the press, revealing the vast scope of surveillance of private data put in place after the 9/11 attacks.

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