Police Issue Bid for System to Monitor Illegal Gatherings

Although the system is meant to identify gatherings of over 50, which are illegal under coronavirus regulations, it will also be able to monitor civilians participating in protests

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Anti-Netanyahu protesters march through Tel Aviv, November 7, 2020.
Anti-Netanyahu protesters march through Tel Aviv, November 7, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

The police are interested in purchasing a system that can monitor gatherings of over 50 people. They have put out a bid for such a system, estimated to cost around one million shekels (just under $300,000). It will be in operation for one year, with an option of extending it for another six months.

The goal is to contend with gatherings taking place during the pandemic, but such a system will enable police to monitor any gatherings of civilians participating in protests as well.

The monitoring is to utilize cell phone location tracing, without obtaining the details of their owners.

In order to avoid gathering information on civilians without a court order, the police emphasize that collected data will be anonymous, with no possibility of identifying individuals. Information on gatherings will be passed to officers nearby and will include the location, time and number of participants. The tender says the system is needed in order to provide real-time solutions that will allow police to enforce public order.

According to the tender issued on Monday, “the system will use statistical and geographic information, gathering anonymous aggregate details which will be verified close to real time, by cross-checking the information with locations of cellphones of people residing in Israel.”

Last May, the police purchased a similar system for locating gatherings, in a process that did not include bidding. Mobility Insight got 100,000 shekels for a system that was in use for 30 days, in which the company provided police with information on gatherings in public spaces. The police explained this contract as “required due to the urgency of the health situation and the lockdown.”

Haaretz reported on Monday that soldiers in Military Intelligence are monitoring social networks in Israel in order to identify events in advance that could become gatherings. The information is passed to the police in order to enforce regulations. Some of these soldiers specialize in social media monitoring, and information they provide has helped the police recently in foiling several outdoor festivals and mass weddings.

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