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.