Powerful Police Database on the Movements of Citizens?
On 25.11.2020, along with Privacy Israel, we appealed to the Legal Advisor to the Police, demanding the cancelation of the tender for “the supply of a database for the analysis of commuting, and system for locating large groups of people”. The tender seeks to provide the police a continuous, live access to the geographic data of all people in the country via cellular signal, both for strategizing the division police force on the ground, and for detecting banned gatherings during the times of COVID-19.
In the appeal, Attorney Anne Suciu from ACRI argued that police usage of cellular signals for these purposes, especially in real time, is a severe violation of the constitutional rights to liberty and privacy. Detecting gatherings based on cellular signal also immeasurably violets the right to freedom of expression, gathering, and protesting, as it intimidates the citizens from carrying out legitimate activities. Although in the tender it was noted that the police are not interested in intel about individuals, but rather in anonymous and centralized information about groups of 50 people, this remains a powerful and intrusive tool that severely violates both privacy and liberty.
Furthermore, we argued that the law does not specifically authorize the police to use such data, meaning this tender is illegal and should be annulled.
The rights of a person in a democratic country, alone or in a group, is to roam about freely and anonymously without the police monitoring their movements in real time and receiving notifications on their whereabouts. The database the police are requesting in this tender creates powerful monitoring mechanisms of over millions of citizens, and fundamentally changes the balances written in law in regards to the authority of police, and all of this - in an administrative act of a tender, with no authorization or legislative regulation.
Following our appeal, the Police notified that it is freezing the formation of the database, until the matter is legislatively regulated.
Attorney Anne Suciu: “The decision of the Police to suspend the usage of the gathering detection system until it is regulated by law is welcomed, however, this is only a small part of the system the police are seeking to create for themselves - a system for the monitoring of masses built entirely on data collection from the cellular devices of citizens, continuously and in real time. Without our agreements and without any legal regulation, the cellular companies are about to sell our information to the Police, and establish a mechanism for control and monitoring that threatens our fundamental liberties.”