Likud’s Version of Big Brother: Its Controversial App for Israeli Voters

One party activist said he deleted the app – and two minutes later, received a text message imploring him to re-install it. Another user was a 13-year-old boy, who is too young to vote

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, December 15, 2019.
Gali Tibbon,AP

Likud has been running an aggressive campaign for the past few weeks to push its voter application, Elector. The campaign calls on voters to send a text message with their full name to a phone number. In response, they receive a link with a password to download the app.

One of those who received the link on his phone just happens to be a 13-year-old boy – and his case shows how Likud’s campaign headquarters has arbitrarily granted any app user access to data on all of the 6.4 million Israeli citizens who have the right to vote.

Any user can use the app to find out information on every registered voter. The app displays their full address, their assigned polling station and the addresses of their family members. The voter registry is provided to political parties to enable them to contact voters – but that 13-year-old is a minor who cannot vote and shouldn’t be part of Likud’s election campaign or database.

This is not the only example of the party’s unrestrained enthusiasm. A Likud party member who recently installed Elector but later removed it because he wasn’t interested in it any more received a call from Likud campaign headquarters a few hours later, asking why he uninstalled the app from his cellphone.

Two women take a selfie in front of an election poster for Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, January 21, 2020.
Emil Salman

Another party activist shared on social media that he removed the app from his phone – and two minutes later, he received a text message imploring him to install it.

The information collected through Elector has leaked out, and continues to leak easily. The security flaws in the app have allowed users to download the entire Israeli voter registry with the click of a button. This information includes identifying details like voters’ ID numbers and their father’s name – along with any comments Likud campaigners may have entered into their system about the person.

Likud party activists who used the Elector app were asked to enter information about friends and acquaintances. According to reports from blogger and security expert Ran Bar-Zik, these included comments such as: “A very sick woman, her husband has dementia, it is worth putting the voting slip in their hands,” and “this man is a Kahol Lavan mole … bad-mouths the prime minister freely.”

Two weeks ago, a petition was filed with the head of the Central Elections Committee, Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel, asking him to issue an order preventing Likud from using the app over concerns that it violates voters’ privacy. But Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit issued a legal opinion stating that Hendel does not have the authority to hear the petition or order Likud to stop using the app because the party is not violating any election laws.

The Israeli Privacy Protection Authority is still examining the extent of the problem, and could act on the matter under the auspices of the Privacy Protection Law.