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ACRI petition against unsupervised police surveillance

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Today, 28.1, on International Data Privacy Day, ACRI and Privacy Israel submitted a petition to the HCJ against the police use of the “Hawk’s Eye” surveillance system. This is an automatic system that tracks and records the movement of civilians on the country’s roads by vehicle license plate and photographing the vehicle’s passengers. The system locates “wanted” civilians or vehicles as they pass through a photographer area on the road where the system is active. Additionally, the system stores the details of all the citizens whose vehicles have passed by its cameras, including video and stills of the vehicle and its passengers. In this way, the police have access to a massive database that can be used for various purposes, including investigations and locating and detaining civilians.

This is an extreme surveillance mechanism, allowing the police to hold sensitive, private information about citizens with just the click of a button, including the location of citizens on the country’s roads in real time. It allows the police to construct a sort of map regarding a person’s whereabouts, route, and even contact with others. All of this information is now at the hands of the police without having been passed in any form of legislation and without a court order or supervision.

In the petition, ACRI claims that the system violates the constitutional rights to privacy and liberty by exposing every civilian who dares to drive one’s car to automatic surveillance, to the constant monitoring of one’s physical location, and the storing of one’s private and sensitive information in a database for an extended period of time. In the absence of an explicit authorization laid down in law, the use of this system contradicts the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and must cease immediately.

What’s more, even if the system operated by virtue of explicit legislation, its violation of fundamental human rights would not stand the test of proportionality, and thus the law would not have passed constitutional review. In a democracy, it cannot stand that every trip a civilian takes in his or her vehicle automatically leaves an information trail for the police to store and potentially act upon, whether the authorization to do so is legislated or not.

Attorneys Avner Pinchuk and Anne Suciu wrote the petition.

HCJ 641/21


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