Civil Rights Body Slams Shin Bet for Asking Data on University Grads

Association for Civil Rights in Israel also rebukes universities for handing information over to security service.

Students relax at the Hebrew University campus in Jerusalem.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has harshly criticized the requests made by the Shin Bet security service to Israeli universities for information about graduates, as reported last week in Haaretz. The Shin Bet does not have the legal authority to obtain this information, ACRI said in a letter to the Shin Bet’s legal adviser.

ACRI legal adviser Dan Yakir and the head of the organization’s department of information and privacy, Avner Pinchuk, wrote the Shin Bet legal adviser that the agency “does not have the legal authority to transfer to it lists of graduates for hiring staff. In making this request, the Shin Bet acts wrongfully and causes those universities that answered the request to act wrongfully.” The letter said the Shin Bet’s request invaded the graduates’ privacy.

The Shin Bet responded that the privacy protection law did allow it to obtain information from the universities. However, ACRI said that while the law does allow the Shin Bet to obtain information from public bodies, universities are not considered public bodies as defined by the law.

Yakir and Pinchuk took the universities sharply to task for “not bothering to check the legal situation. They wrongly thought that they were required by law to obey the demand and therefore they gave the information without thinking about it or challenging it.”

Yakir and Pinchuk asked the Shin Bet to refrain from approaching the universities in this matter and to destroy the lists of graduates it had received so far.