What Happens When Israel Uses Google Docs for a COVID Initiative? Exactly What You’d Expect

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MKs, with Idit Silman on the left, in the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, in August.
MKs, with Idit Silman on the left, in the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, in August. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Knesset member Idit Silman of Yamina wanted to use her high profile as an elected official for a good cause: to provide an example to the public and support COVID vaccination.

Silman, who is chairwoman of the Knesset Health Committee, wanted to bring to light the inoculation status of her fellow parliamentarians. In order to do this, she wanted to compile a list of Knesset members who have been vaccinated, those who prefer to be tested regularly instead and abstainers.

This was done through a Google Doc, which brings with it a number of issues, particularly for organizations such as Israel’s parliament. For one, they only offer reasonable security when they are shared exclusively with people who have Google accounts. when they are sent to an email address for a non-Gmail account, there is no way to prevent others from accessing the document using that same invitation. When the document is sent via link, it makes it even easier for it to reach others.

Despite Silman’s good intentions, not all MKs were on board. MK Yitzhak Pindrus of United Torah Judaism sent her a satirical email in response to her request on Wednesday. That message found its way to Kol Chai Radio reporter Bezalel Kahan, who tweeted it. Kahan’s tweet also contained the document link. Because Silman's document was not just public but open to editing as well, anyone could vandalize it as they pleased.

A vigilant Twitter user directed this to my attention. I then left a message to the Knesset members at the top of the page in the hope that someone would see it, reading: “Hello Knesset members, maybe it’s not a good idea to make this list in a Google Doc that’s open to everyone and has been leaked to the internet” and signed it with my name.

MK Silman's form, including the author's message to his representatives, with his name highlighted.

Other people realized that they could change the information there as they pleased, having a bit of fun at the parliamentarians' expense and making up new representatives with punny names.

Silman released a statement in response, saying that the document was written at her initiative “In order to increase the transparency and faith in Knesset members, and out of a belief in their professionalism. In preparing the document, MK Silman was helped by the consultants who work with her.”   

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