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Police Violate Basic Rights Through Unlawful Use of "Reverse Tracking"

© Rafael Ben Ari |

We recently became aware of police use of “reverse tracking” technology: instead of pinpointing the location of a specific person in relation to a crime, the police request location or other communication data on all individuals located within a certain area, without respective suspicion. This action reflects mass surveillance of the locations of dozens, hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of innocent people. A person's location data is sensitive personal information that may reveal many details about them.

On April 28, 2022, we appealed to the police’s legal advisor, demanding that they cease to use this technology. Attorney Anne Suciu claimed that the use of "reverse tracking" is conducted unauthorized: the "Communications Data Law" authorizes the police to receive communication data, yet does not permit them to extensively violate the privacy of all those located in a certain area, who are not suspected of anything. Among other things, the law states that the court will permit the police to receive communication data on the condition that it does not harm individual privacy beyond the extent deemed necessary. In "reverse tracking," harm is not only caused to one person’s privacy but also to that of many, whose location data is sent to the police.

In a 2012 ruling on ACRI’s petition against the Communications Data Law, the High Court of Justice adopted a narrow interpretation of the law and emphasized that authority should solely be exercised with regard to "the individual involved in the crime" and "only in cases where it is required for a specific and concrete as to distinguish it from the use of legal arrangements for general purposes in detecting criminals and preventing crime.”

"Reverse tracking" technology joins a long list of technologies that the police make extensive use of without express legal authorization, including the "Hawk Eye" system and "Pegasus" software. The need to use advanced technological means in law enforcement and the detection of criminal activity necessitates a public discussion and informed examination of the pros, cons, and proportionality of infringement of the right to privacy, along with necessary measures to oversee and monitor the use of such technologies.


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