Israel needs new laws to limit intel services’ powers to eavesdrop online — IDIFebruary 8, 2019
In 2013, Edward Snowden, an American citizen hired by a contractor to the National Security Agency (NSA), leaked thousands of classified NSA documents that exposed the global surveillance activities of the US, in cooperation with the UK, Canada and Australia.
Snowden fled to Russia and the public outcry triggered by his actions brought about statutory reforms in the US and widespread debate there and elsewhere about the way state intelligence agencies collect data online.
That debate, and the implications of surveillance for the rights to privacy of those being spied upon, needs to take place in Israel to ensure that human rights are not breached, says a report published Wednesday by the Israel Democracy Institute.
While there was lively public debate around the issue of biometric ID documents and passports in Israel and the creation of a national database containing the biometric data of all Israeli citizens, “there has been almost no discussion of the rules regulating online surveillance for security purposes; in particular, there has been little discussion of existing legislation and its compatibility with today’s social and technological realities and with human rights norms,” the report says.
Using modern technology to collect, store and analyze online communications data can yield richer and more detailed intelligence information on surveillance targets than ever before, say the researchers, Amir Cahane and Yuval Shany, the latter an expert in human rights and humanitarian law at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University who currently chairs the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Risk of ‘significant violation of privacy’
But consideration also has to be given to the “significant violation of privacy” inflicted on the subjects of surveillance and those with whom they are in touch.
The circle of those affected grows dramatically when intelligence agencies employ “bulk collection methods,” which extract huge amounts of data about communications rather than targeting particular individuals.
Infringing the right to privacy is just one consequence of online surveillance, the report’s writers say, noting the “chilling effect” that an awareness one is being spied upon can have on people, their freedom of expression and their conduct.
Cahane and Shany discovered that Israeli law does not address the bulk collection of online communications, let alone feature provisions for exceptional circumstances in which such a mass…