State asks to outlaw downloading of population data

Precedent-setting request comes after the DA filed indictments in connection with the massive data theft.

May 17, 2012 00:28
2 minute read.
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State prosecutors on Wednesday asked the Tel Aviv District Court for an injunction declaring it a criminal offense for Israelis to download or keep copies of a stolen Population Registry database.

The precedent-setting request came after the district attorney filed indictments on Sunday against six people in connection with the massive data theft, in which a Welfare and Social Services Ministry contractor allegedly stole a database containing personal details of nine million Israelis, including deceased people and those living abroad.

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Prosecutors allege the contractor, Shalom Bilik, passed the stolen data to a haredi organization to be used for fund-raising purposes. Other defendants allegedly received and sold the data, including as a searchable database, which spread around the world after someone uploaded it to the Internet.

Although the district attorney served indictments in the case, concern remains that the data is still being used and disseminated via the Web.

The State Attorney’s Office believes that thousands of Israelis are using the stolen data, which is is available for download on websites and file-sharing sites hosted abroad, including in the form of a database named “Agron,” allegedly created by Moshe Moskovitz, one of the defendants.

District Attorney Moshe Marciano and attorney Haim Vismunsky from the State Attorney’s Office asked the court to issue an order stating that downloading or possessing copies of all or part of the stolen Population Registry data violates the Privacy Law.

Such an order would be a public declaration that anyone who holds the stolen data is committing a criminal offense and is at risk of criminal investigation and prosecution.

According to the State Attorney’s Office, the defendants’ alleged actions are exacerbated by the fact that the data is still freely available.

That is because the significant damage caused by releasing the sensitive information onto the Internet is “largely irreparable,” the State Attorney’s Office said.

Although the scope of the theft in this case is unprecedented, in one previous criminal trial the Tel Aviv District Court ruled to prohibit the distribution of stolen data that judges deemed as harmful to a complainant’s privacy.

In that case, in 2005, married couple Ruth and Michael Haephrati were found guilty of developing a type of computer malware dubbed a “Trojan Horse” and using it to spy on a PC belonging to thriller writer Amnon Jackont. Several private investigators were also convicted in the case, which also involved theft of large amounts of data from dozens of companies.

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