Surveillance Under COVID-19

viralocc_surveillance

The COVID-19 global public health emergency has given rise to heightened forms of surveillance in the name of public safety. The Israeli government quickly authorized the Shin Bet security service to apply its considerable powers of surveillance, long used against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, to track the cellphones of confirmed coronavirus patients and those around them.

The experience of controlling, repressing and surveilling an occupied population has long been at the core of the so-called Israeli advantage in the Homeland Security (HLS) market. The Israeli military apparatus serves as an incubator, laboratory and high-profile client for Israel’s surveillance industry, which translates Israel’s portfolio of repression into ‘field-proven’ product offerings, marketed not only to traditional HLS clients, but also to municipalities, schools and businesses.

Moments of crisis, such as the present one, generate new business opportunities for Israeli surveillance tech. The notorious Israeli spyware company NSO Group is reportedly developing software to match cellphone-tracking and locational data. BriefCam, whose video surveillance has been deployed in the occupied Old City of Jerusalem, tweeted in late March that its people-counting video-analytic capabilities “can help organizations proactively protect” against COVID-19. KMC Systems, an Elbit Systems subsidiary, is already supplying its products to US healthcare professionals.

Israeli Supreme Court decision leaves the door open for further Sin Bet interference in civilian matters. For Palestinians, such interference has long been the norm.
The app was developed by Israeli soldiers in collaboration with employees of weapons corporation Rafael and Amazon Israel, joining a growing list of medical products based on Israeli military know-how.
Israeli military intelligence capabilities, central to the occupation apparatus, have been incorporated into Israel’s coronavirus response, gathering medical intelligence.
AnyVision, whose biometrics tech is deployed in Israeli military checkpoints and Palestinian towns in the oPt, will deploy thermal cameras in Israeli hospitals.
Israel’s extensive surveillance apparatus, long used against Palestinians, is now deployed to monitor Israeli coronavirus patients.
Israeli government investment arm is offering millions in grants for coronavirus-related tech. Recipients include several firms specializing in population control through remote monitoring, sensors and scent recognition.
According to its CEO, Elbit Systems "is an ideal candidate to benefit from budgets and contracts of governments that would want to quickly raise employment and the GDP. Civil unrest also creates demand for public security products.”
Subsidiary raised $5M to develop a facial recognition platform that could aid policing of populations under quarantine, based on capabilities of the parent company, led by veterans of Israeli elite military intelligence units.
In cooperation with the Israeli MOD and military, Israeli spyware firm NSO Group developed a data analysis system to track Israelis and rate their probability of contracting coronavirus. System trials have been reported in multiple countries.
Canon’s full subsidiary, the Israeli video surveillance firm BriefCam active in occupied East Jerusalem, is advocating the use of intelligent video surveillance as part of the response to COVID-19.
“Allowing the Shin Bet to employ its secret, unsupervised methods in civilian affairs could create a dangerous slippery slope that might pave the way for its intervention in additional civilian realms."
Across the globe, far-right governments are using the pandemic to further restrict civil space and deepen surveillance.