Palestinians seeking to verify whether their permits to remain in Israel are still valid have been instructed by Israel to download an app that enables the military access to their cellphones.
The app would allow the army to track the Palestinians’ cellphone location, as well as access notifications they receive, files they download and save and the device’s camera.
Palestinians who are granted a permit to reside in Israel – for humanitarian reasons or for family reunification – are usually required to go to the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) offices to check their status. The offices are now closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, leaving them no choice but to download the app instead.
The app, provided by COGAT, is dubbed “Al Munasiq,” or “The Coordinator” in Arabic. To install the app, users need to approve the following terms: “We may make use of the information we collect for any purpose, including for security purposes.
“You agree and declare that you know that all the information you are asked to provide is not required by law or defense regulations, and it is provided of your own free will, so that we can make use of it as we see fit. In addition, you consent that we may store the information you have provided to us in our databases based on our considerations,” the message reads.
Lawyers with human rights organization Hamoked – Center for the Defense of the Individual, Adi Lustigman and Benjamin Agsteribbe, wrote on behald of their organization that “The connection between clarifying the status of the permits and revealing private information is unclear.
“Placing these requirements as the sole default for a person to use the application is extremely unreasonable, and cynically exploits public distress and panic in these grim times for the inappropriate purpose to invade one’s privacy in a manner that damages human dignity,” the letter added.
COGAT said in response that the app is open to all Palestinians residing in Israel “with the intention of making information accessible to the Palestinian public in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip in a digital and convenient way.” COGAT added that in light of the spread of the coronavirus, and according to Health Ministry directives, it closed its offices and service centers in the West Bank.
“As a result, a resident who wants to receive information as to the status of the permit they hold can use the telephone service center, or ‘The Coordinator’ application alternatively. We would like to make clear that no order has been issued to download the app as a condition for inquiring about one’s status, but it is just a recommendation for the convenience of the residents,” COGAT said.