Shin Bet to Quit Asking Academic Institutions for Alumni Lists

Civil rights activists accuse the security agency of using a loophole in privacy legislation to try and seek more recruits.

Students walking at Tel Aviv University.
David Bachar

The Shin Bet says it has decided to quit asking universities for information about their graduates for the sake of building up the security agency's recruitment lists.

Haaretz had reported in June that at the Shin Bet's request Israeli  universities were providing the organization with lists of graduates, their identity numbers and contact details .

A source at one university told Haaretz that the Shin Bet passes a form with a formal request to academic institutions, seeking details about graduates as part of its recruitment efforts.

The country's privacy protection legislation excludes the Shin Bet and the Mossad, police and the IDF's Intelligence branch from rules restricting such information sharing, giving universities little choice but to provide the data.

The law allows the Shin Bet "to receive information in order to fulfill its job" and the Shin Bet interprets this as covering its recruitment efforts as well, or so lawmaker Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party found out when she asked the Shin Beit whether it gathers imformation about social activists.

The Shin Bet had replied that its queries were a part of legitimate recruitment efforts among university alumni.

Following that story the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) asked the Shin Bet to stop such gathering that information.

Last week the Shin Bet's legal advisers said that "following an examination it has been decided not to continue with approaching institutions of higher learning for leists of graduates."

Attorney Dan Yakir, ACRI's legal adviser told Haaretz, that "it is not clear why the Shin Bet needed seven months to reach the conclusion that seeking such information about university gradualtes is illegal and ought to stop."

Yakir alleged that academic institutions that cooperated with such requests were also guilty, for having cooperated with what he called an "illegal demand for information."