Knesset Panel Okays Western World's Largest Database for Police Use

Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approves police search engine, which will include unprecedented amount of data.

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved Monday morning the establishment of a police search engine, which, if passed by the Knesset, would be the largest legal database in the Western world for police use.

The database is to include names, unlisted and listed phone numbers, Internet addresses, computer and modem numbers, and cell-phone identifiers to pinpoint signals and allow the police to track individual conversations.

Access to the information will be given not only to police, but to several investigative authorities, including the military criminal investigation department, the Police Investigation Unit, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry, the Tax Authority and more.

In order to receive information from the database for use in an investigation, the investigative body in question will need to issue an order, or in cases where information is vital to save a life or prevent a criminal offense, the authorities will be able to extract the information and report on it retroactively.

In a committee meeting, the Israel Bar Association and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel expressed many grievances regarding the fact that the committee vote went ahead at 9:15 A.M., just after the meeting opened.

Committee Chairman Menachem Ben Sasson (Kadima) said, however, that the hasty vote came as no surprise. "If anything was surprising, it's that the vote wasn't held at 9 A.M.," he said.

MK Michael Eitan (Likud) said in response to the vote that "the message coming out of here to the public is that it's possible to forfeit privacy even in cases of crossing the street outside a crosswalk."

Minister of Internal Security Avi Dichter called the database a "critical tool to catch terrorists and criminals."

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) has maintained the establishment of the database, which would make it much easier for police to analyze wiretap data and conduct surveillance, would seriously infringe privacy.

The Israel Bar Association concurs. Association attorney Dan Koehl said that giving the police cellular phone identifier numbers would "turn some people into walking GPSs [Global Positioning Systems]," and through them, police could get to their friends and business associates. This database, Koehl addded, "would make citizens transparent."