The reported leak of information about millions of Israelis, caused by the Likud Party, proves that foreign states could intervene in Israeli elections, Israel Democracy Institute senior fellow Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler wrote on Monday.
Shwartz Altshuler, who is an expert on the impact of technology on democracy, referred to a Haaretz report that the personal information of 6,453,254 Israelis was leaked after the Likud uploaded the entire Israeli national voter registry to an application. The leaked information includes names, identification numbers, phone numbers and addresses.
“When the state grants parties access to the most sensitive information about us, and there is no control over its security, leakage of that information is only a matter of time,” she said. “The parties can use sensitive information about our voting patterns to manipulate us as never before. Whoever disrespects our right to privacy and wants to use data to manipulate us as never before, is jeopardizing national security. Such database leaks could serve as a powerful lever for the influence of countries with geopolitical interests in our region.”
Noting charges about Russian intervention in American elections and key votes in Britain, Shwartz Altshuler said the same thing could happen here. She suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin could try to intervene on behalf of Netanyahu, with whom he is close.
“The next election campaign will be about Blue and White vs Putin, not about Blue and White vs the Likud,” she said. “Access to these databases by foreign countries, such as Russia, could pave the way to intervention in this and future elections, by generating distrust in the democratic system and widening the rift among different groups making up the mosaic of Israeli society.”
Shwartz Altshuler said the repetitive elections in a relatively short time - three within a year – means that political parties in Israel have been able to amass accurate and intimate details on all registered voters. This data, combined with the ability to crosscheck information on apps to achieve exact targeting, can lead to both forgery and to an exponential leap in the ability to access and manipulate potential voters, either by political parties or by bigger players with geopolitical interests in the Middle East.
The Israel Democracy Institute has called for the Central Elections Committee to issue directives limiting the types of information that parties are permitted to collect about citizens, the ways that such information can be applied and the use of apps, ensuring that voter data is secure.
“We must understand that if all this information is being taken advantage of, our vote isn’t really free, and the story we’re telling ourselves about democracy being based on free choice is really fiction,” Shwartz Altshuler said.
Political parties in Israel receive information about Israeli voters before the elections, must protect voters’ privacy and cannot copy, erase or transfer the registry. The voter registry was uploaded to the Elector application that the Likud Party uses on Election Day.
A breach in the application allows for the leaking of the registry, which can then be downloaded on a computer, according to Haaretz. Likud fixed the breach as soon as it was informed by the company, Mako news reported.A Likud spokesman said the leak was the fault of Elector, the company that provided the application and is an external supplier to multiple parties."The professional and legal responsibility belongs to the company," the spokesman said. "The Likud is making every effort, alongside the company to safeguard the information and make sure it is protected in accordance with the law and standards that have been accepted."