More than 50,000 Palestinians downloaded an app that gives Israel access to files and data from their cell phones. Contrary to what Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories says, employers were required to have Palestinian laborers use the app.
The Al Munasiq app was first launched by COGAT in February 2019, as a way to offer digital access to services for Palestinians, such as checking on the status of permit applications. But in downloading the app, the user is required to give very broad permission to access information on geographical location, access to the phone’s camera and to messages and files stored on the phone.
The registration screen for the app says: “We may make use of the information we collect for any purpose, including for security purposes. You agree and declare that you know that all the information you are asked to provide is not required by law or defense regulations, and it is provided of your own free will, so that we can make use of it as we see fit. In addition, you consent that we may store the information you have provided to us in our databases based on our considerations.”
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The letter went on to specify the types of information required and the types of permissions that already exist on the app, including collecting information to prevent identity forgery, geographical location in order to schedule an appointment at checkpoints, access to the camera to enable IP scanning of documents and access to files stored on the device in order to present documents this way.
At the end of April, the Agriculture Ministry instructed employers to require Palestinians to fill out a health declaration via COGAT’s Al Munasiq app prior to entering Israel for work, even though COGAT previously said that use of the app was only recommended, not compulsory.
As a result, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, and Kav La’Oved sent an addition to a petition currently being formulated concerning the employment conditions of Palestinians in Israel, demanding that they be allowed to fill in a medical questionnaire without using the app. COGAT responded that the Agriculture Ministry issued this directive of its own accord and that the ministry has now been asked to remove this instruction.
COGAT said: “COGAT’s Al Munasiq app was developed for the benefit of the Palestinian public, to make information accessible to the people who live in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip – in a digital and easy to use format. In addition, the app was intended to provide digital services related to the work of COGAT and its units.
“The permission for use of the geographical location is required for scheduling an appointment in the appointment scheduling system and for obtaining other digital services. If the person gives consent to access his location, in the future he will be able to schedule an appointment for the service center in accordance with his geographical location, and also to receive regular updates in accordance with his area of residence. We wish to emphasize that the permission is not a condition for downloading the app or review of the information that is made public as a result of it.”