When Facebook complied with 50 percent of the 113 requests Israeli government
bodies made this year to release data on its users, it did so based mostly on
US, not Israeli, law, the Justice Ministry told The Jerusalem Post.
should be noted that the company Facebook is an American company, and as such
submits to these requests in accordance with American law on providing digital
information in its possession, and according to legal assistance agreements
between the United States and Israel,” a Justice Ministry spokeswoman
Because Israel is party to the Mutual Legal Assistance Party Treaty
(MLAT), it can request information on Facebook users – or users of any other
US-based companies such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and so on – through the US
government on criminal or security matters.
“Countries that have a mutual
legal assistance arrangement with the US may utilize this channel to try and
seek data from a provider such as Facebook as an alternative to submitting a
direct request to us,” Facebook’s Pan-Euro Policy Communications Manager Linda
Griffin explained to the Post. “If successful, an MLAT request will result in
the issuance of US legal process to the provider, such as a court order or
search warrant,” she explains.
“There are US laws that permit the
government to monitor communications of users of various content management
service provider websites that inevitably, undeniably have Israeli users,” Adam
Snukal, shareholder in Greenberg Traurig’s Tel Aviv office said. “The fact that
the US government is permitted to monitor users can potentially have an effect
on Israeli users.”
As Facebook’s Wednesday report accentuated, companies
do not honor every government information request, and may even push back if
they feel the government hasn’t complied with its own
Though treaties require there to be a criminal or security
element, questions about how much information is collected and under what
circumstances have come to fore since June, when US government contractor Edward
Snowden’s June revealed the existence of extensive US spying
The implications for international users of US-based Internet
companies rattled many US allies.
In July, EU ambassadors met over
revelations that the US was tracking their citizens. Since April, Google’s
privacy and data collection policies have spurned threats from both France and
Spain to fine the company and a stern warning from the Indian government. More
recently, privacy campaigners in the UK filed petitions against the company. And
in the US itself, the American Civil Liberties Union filed lawsuits against the
government over the Snowden revelations.
In Israel, however, little has
been made of the issue.
“Unlike the United States, we’re not having a
public discussion on this,” said Avner Pinchuk, head of Information and Privacy
at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. “ACRI hasn’t even dealt with
While privacy is a major issue enshrined in the US constitution and
Europeans are concerned about [privacy as a matter of] dignity, he notes,
Israelis are less preoccupied with the issue.
Recent revelations that the
Israeli government could easily access cell-phone usage data— more invasive than
the phone metadata scanning program Snowden[’s first] unveiled—raised few
eyebrows, he said.
“We need to make a huge effort so that the minimum
information on what we do and what we don’t do will reach a public discussion,”
One possible reason that Israelis take the issue in stride
is a greater willingness to sacrifice for security.
evolves, privacy tries to play catch-up, and as security threats on a global
scale become more serious, technology is a means through which terrorists are
plotting and planning,” Snukal noted.
“Like it or hate it, some of it has
to get done to protect civilians. How it gets done is still very much a question
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