For thousands of Palestinians, daily life is regulated by the Israeli military’s complex permit bureaucracy. A woman from the West Bank married to a Jerusalemite needs a permit to live with him in the city; a farmer whose lands are trapped behind the Separation Wall needs a permit to access them; a person who wishes to work inside Israel must apply for a permit in order to do so.
The temporary closure of all military civil administration offices due to the coronavirus crisis made it more difficult than usual for Palestinians to navigate the permit process. In late March, HaMoked learned that the military was taking advantage of this practical problem to encourage use of a new mobile app, where users can check the status of their permit requests.
While at first this seemed like a positive development, HaMoked’s review of the app’s terms and conditions pointed to the potentially sinister motives behind the move. The app’s draconian terms stated, in essence, that it collects the entire contents of a user’s phone, including its location, contacts, messages and documents. Even worse: the terms explicitly stated that this information could be used at any point for unrestricted “security purposes”.
HaMoked wrote to the military against this blatant violation of Palestinians’ right to privacy. Last week, HaMoked (via Attorney Adi Lustigman) petitioned the High Court of Justice demanding that the military stop collecting information about the app’s users, and that the app’s terms and conditions be updated accordingly. That same day, the military responded that our demands had been met: the updated terms limit automatic data collection to a phone’s IP address and technical information only, and significantly limit data sharing with third parties.
This case illustrates how this global health crisis is being used to further violate Palestinians’ rights. As always, we will remain vigilant and determined in our defense of basic rights, during the crisis and beyond.
Wishing you and your loved ones health and safety,
Executive Director of HaMoked