• ACRI

Police Using Cell Phones to Document Protestors


Illistration
Photo by Yosi Zamir, stock.shatil.org.il

On 15.10.2020, ACRI appealed to the Deputy Attorney General regarding a new practice - the documentation of protestors by police with cell phones, as seen in the protests over the past few weeks.


In the appeal, Attorney Reut Shaer, Director of the Public Hotline, argued that the documentation of citizens by officers violates the right to privacy, and when such documentation takes place during protests it also violates the freedom to protest, and deters protestors from participating. We further argued that the authority to document protestors and protests, no matter how justified, should be officiated clearly in the law. The many reports we have received point to the fact the officers do not adhere even to the very procedures, limitations, and restrictions set forth on the matter by the Police itself.


The Police’s response to our appeal made it clear that documenting protestors with the officers’ cell phones may have been initiated as a practice decided upon by the officers themselves, but has since been officiated in Police procedures. Due to this, we appealed again to the Legal Advisor of the Police on 25.10.2020, and argued that instead of having given legitimacy to the piracy of cell phone documentation, the Police should have instead forbidden officers from documenting protests. We further argued that in any case, even according to the procedure itself, such documentation is not intended for premeditated events such as protests, and therefore its usage is invalid regardless. We emphasized our argument that this practice deters protestors, and violates the freedom of expression and the right to protest, as well as the right to privacy. We insisted that this practice does not consider many issues, including the fear that it will be used in a unilateral and unregulated manner.


In the police’s response, we were told that the practice has been voided, and that the Police are working on formulating a new practice on the matter.