Agriculture minister agrees to reevaluate dog app

App was launched November 5 by the Agriculture Ministry with the aim of enabling an easy search for all veterinarians in Israel.

By
November 13, 2014 11:58
2 minute read.
Dog

Tzadok the dog. (photo credit: NOAM ROSENBERG)

Responding to an urgent query from MKs Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and Eitan Cabel (Labor) regarding an invasion of privacy issue involving a smartphone application for dog owners, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir said he would reevaluate the app.

The app in question, Maagar HaKelavim (“Dog Database”), was launched November 5 by the Agriculture Ministry with the aim of enabling an easy search for all veterinarians in Israel, as well as a population registry of all 350,000 dogs in the country. Before the existence of the app, such details were available only from a desktop computer.

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The app contains information such as dog-chip number, breed, sex, castration status, as well as updated rabies vaccination information. In the case of a bite or attack, the victim would be able to determine the validity of a dog’s license as well as rabies vaccination information, the ministry said. Another purpose for the application is to help people locate and return lost dogs.

In the days following the launch, however, a Yediot Aharonot investigation made clear that more than simply information about the dogs themselves was available through the app, revealing that personal details of the dog owners themselves, including names, cell phone and landline numbers, as well as home address, also were readily available through the application.

The Yediot report went on to detail how personal information of celebrity dog owners, such as Knesset members, actors and the IDF chief of staff all was available.

As a result, Zandberg and Cabel submitted an urgent query on the matter.

“You have taken a database and voluntarily uploaded it to the Internet and to a cellular application so that anyone can search for the details of both public and private people,” Zandberg said. “You have opened this database to the public and have ignored any question of privacy.”

Shamir responded Wednesday, explaining that the database was established by law more than a decade ago, when discussions were held as to what information would be included.

“We can change our minds now and we have the ability to remove the data,” the minister said. “I think we have to say – let’s consider this issue again and bring it up for additional discussion.

After all, it’s been 12 or 13 years and one would not have been aware of the power of applications.” One possible option could be a search by chip number that does not reveal information about the owners of the animals, Shamir suggested.

“I was also surprised when the app came out,” he said.

“Let’s have a proper discussion again.”

Zandberg said she is glad that the minister “understands the injustice.”

“A renewed discussion is a step in the right direction and I’m sure we can convince members of the Economic Affairs Committee to stop this violation of privacy,” she said.


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