Democracy in the Information Age Program

This program seeks to harness technology to transform government and make it more transparent, accountable and effective. The program devises policies, regulatory proposals and innovative software platforms designed to improve service, enhance transparency, boost accountability and raise citizen participation. 

In recent years, the program has partnered with Google Israel to place municipal budgets online, worked with regulators to craft an open database policy, and helped the Israeli government meet its obligations under the "Open Government Partnership" of the world's leading tech nations.

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    Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler

    Head; Senior Fellow

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    Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler is a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute and head of the institute’s Media Reform Program and Democracy in the Information Age Program.

    She holds a doctorate in law (LLD) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and completed her post-doctoral studies at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. 

    She is a board member of the Israel National Press Council, a board member of the Israeli Digital Rights Movement, a board member of the Center for Ethics in Jerusalem and a member of the Supreme Council of Archives of the State of Israel.

    In recent years, Dr. Shwartz Altshuler has composed the journalistic code of ethics for Israel’s public broadcasting corporation (“Kan”) and for the Globes business newspaper; drafted a bill for a new privacy law in Israel; and appeared regularly in the Israeli and international media on issues relating to media, technology, democracy, and human rights. She has also published a number of books, articles, policy studies, and expert opinions on these subjects.

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    Dr. Rachel Aridor-Hershkovitz


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    Dr. Adv. Rachel Aridor Hershkovitz is a researcher in the Israel Democracy Institute’s Media Reform program and a research fellow at the Haifa Center for Law and Technology at the University of Haifa.

The Kan public broadcaster has joined forces with Israel’s 2 main commercial TV channels, 12 and 13, to campaign against the bill being promoted by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi to overhaul the country’s media market. 

If the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is failing on cybersecurity, what hope is there for the rest of Israel's digital infrastructure?

On the eve of the Jewish New Year, what can we wish for regarding Israeli regulatory policy? Here are some possible policy proposals.

Dreams of free content and equality are often highjacked and tightly controlled by wealthy people with a hearty appetite for attention.

Memorandum of a Bill to Amend the Police Ordinance, which deals inter alia with the sensitive topic of the use of biometric facial recognition systems by the Israel Police, is abusive and disproportionate and reflects a lack of adequate preparatory work

The temptation to make excessive use of spyware and the apparent failure of the current oversight mechanisms compel a significant reinforcement of existing mechanisms. The creation of a new independent commission to monitor online surveillance is necessary.

The debate as to how to define surveillances software in legislation, and when it may or may not be used misses the point entirely. The bigger question is if law enforcement agencies should be using anti-terror technologies at all.

"If these reports prove true, the activities attributed to the police cast a shadow on Israeli democracy and the rule of law and imply an appalling lack of respect for the checks and balances between the branches of government that form the basis of all democracies"

Innocent Israelis should have the right to know about illegal surveillance– and the appropriate tools at their disposal to hold those responsible accountable for infringements on their privacy.

NSO-Israel Police affair proves we need to rethink the way we oversee surveillance technologies. The solution: Israel needs a privacy czar

Everyone’s talking about “META,” Facebook’s new name, and the thrilling future world of virtual and augmented reality in which we will communicate, shop, play, and even work. Are we entering a new chapter of the internet’s history, in which we will merge with events and don’t just watch them on screen? Mark Zuckerberg thinks so, as he wrote: “The defining quality of the metaverse is presence, which is this feeling that you're really there with another person or in another place.”

It's up to lawmakers to enact privacy protection, outlaw predatory marketing and hold social media providers in Israel accountable for the harm they do

The FDA ruling regarding the Pfizer booster shot may have not been completely in-line with the Health Ministry's recommendation, but the open and transparent decision-making processes employed by the American agency holds important lessons for Israel

Social media narrows our range of information by spreading misinformation.

Amazon reportedly cut NSO off from its AWS service - the same one that is supposed to support Israel’s new official state cloud. Could Jerusalem be cut off, too?


Can one regulator rule Israel’s cyber ecosystem?

Electronic bracelets should be used only after restricting access to information and ensuring its security

Israel's Central Election Committee made a landmark ruling: promoted content online - even to real news reports - is political advertising

Israel's Supreme Court ruling on ISA's contact tracing is a reflection of the government’s decision-making processes during COVID

Banning users from social media platforms raises concerns about free speech protections online

The public should protest the violation of its privacy - so that regulations can be put into place to protect everyone

Israel Democracy Institute Experts to the Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee: “The only way to return to normal routine is through regulation and by encouraging the use of locally-developed apps in malls, workplaces and in educational institutions"

IDI experts' report on digital contact tracing highlights its importance as a helpful tool in addition to human epidemiological investigations

IDI's Dr. Tehilla Shwartz speaks with Amanda Borschel-Dan on a Times of Israel podcast about the resurgence of COVID-19 cases and how Israel's government is tracking them.

In its attempts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, Israel has employed a measure that has not been used by any other democratic country. Since mid-March, the Israeli government has sought the assistance of the General Security Service (also known as the Israeli Security Agency, the ISA, the Shabak or Shin Bet) in conducting epidemiological investigations by providing the Ministry of Health with the routes of coronavirus carriers and lists of individuals with whom they have been in close contact. The ISA queries its communication metadata database to identify the route of confirmed carriers and the individuals with whom they have been in close contact.

ISA's tracking of civilians is being discussed in the Knesset Subcommittee for Secret Services. As Israel is beginning to emerge from a state of emergency, less invasive alternatives should be adopted.

Information is power. Governments and private entities that have access to vast troves of information have vast power.

Privacy doesn't have to be sacrificed in order to protect citizens from the coronavirus - it too must be protected

Israel has authorized its secret services to carry out extensive surveillance of civilians in the battle against the Coronavirus. In most other democracies there is dedicated legislation to deal with information gathering during the epidemic. IDI's experts complied a comparative review.

How is the coronavirus pandemic changing the way governments track their citizens? IDI expert takes a look around the world to see what policies countries are implementing.

We must take advantage of the technological tools at our disposal to battle the coronavirus - without forfeiting our right to privacy

The new regulations that allow the ISA to track citizens threatens our right to privacy, and set a dangerous precedent that could remain with us long after the COVID-19 crisis comes to an end

The sharing of medical data has extremely positive potential. It can help with predicting rare diseases, early detection and more exact diagnoses than are possible with existing medical capabilities.

They are everywhere, argued the PM after pushing to install them in polling stations. He's right, and that's exactly the problem

Technological progress has created a situation of severe tension and incompatibility between the right to privacy and the extensive data pooling on which the digital economy is based. This development requires new thinking about the substance of that right.

What is the media's responsibility in covering the protests of the Ethiopian community against and what are the problems in the coverage?

Can the Mueller report shed light on the labyrinth of cyber connections, which are at the basis of the suspected criminal activity? Probably not.

Today, Israeli election law focuses on banning propaganda conducted by means of boats and planes (e.g. adverts on them).

How should media outlets in Israel prepare themselves for “fake news” campaigns and how has the digital sphere become the “Wild West?” Tipping Point hosts Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler to discuss the extent Israeli elections are influenced by digital campaigns

If we want to preserve a healthy democratic process, and especially public trust that it is possible to hold fair elections in this country, democracy must stand up and protect itself

Iran has apparently hacked the cellphone of Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Netanyahu's main challenger in the April 9 elections. But despite serving as a tool in Likud's campaign, it has not derailed the democratic process in any significant way. In this conversation Eli Bahar, former legal adviser to Shin Bet and IDI fellow, and Ron Shamir, the former head of the technology division at Shin Bet and a fellow at the Hebrew University's Federman Cybersecurity Center, discuss with Tel Aviv Review's Gilad Halpern the danger posed by potential cyber-attacks on Israeli democracy

Eli Bahar and Ron Shamir examine the threats posed by foreign intervention (in its broadest sense) in Israel’s Knesset elections—by means of Cyber-attacks, whether at the state or sub-state level


It is difficult to identify them - they are hidden, disguised, sophisticated and resonate to us what our immediate surroundings think. During the election campaign they are at their peak - bots, fake accounts, unnamed identifiers - all trying to influence public opinion. We bring to you 5 tips for managing smart online presence

In an op-ed published in Techcrunch, Dr. Shwartz Altshuler analyzes the dangers of exploiting one of Israel's rare assets - an extraordinary volume of computerized healthcare information, and the potential damage it could cause.

Transparency International is among the most prominent global organizations fighting corruption through exposure, documentation and measurement.
Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of the organization, discusses the challenges, pitfalls and goals of their work, while Alona Vinograd of the Israel Democracy Institute brings the question of corruption home to Israel against the backdrop of a heated political stage.

Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler sat down with The Israel Project to discuss Israeli Security Agency’s warning against foreign countries’ intervention in Israel’s upcoming elections

In 2016, Israelis’ trust in the mass media reached an all-time low. But the decline seems to have bottomed out then; the increase in trust registered in 2017 has continued this year and reached 31%. This is still low as compared to many other institutions, but is all the same an improvement.

We would not be global leaders in cyber and technology without simultaneously protecting fundamental human rights.

Trust in Israeli media is on the rise, and that's a valuable lifeline to those whose job it is to keep the public informed.

Black Friday is a good reminder that that in order to protect our privacy as well as minimize the use of personal data to influence our ability to make free choices, there needs to be a change in consumers’ habits as well as increased digital literacy. 

The digital domain has developed into something of a wild west for election campaigning in recent years. While there are strict laws governing the press, radio, and television, there are almost no restrictions on online campaigning, such as on the forms of advertising permitted, the use of personal data, and advertising budgets. This lack of regulation has already been shown to potentially affect election results, and may lead to the misuse of information on residents, routinely collected by the municipality as part of its function by those in positions of power in local government. 

The Facebook Bill, which would allow the government to use administrative means to remove content from social networking sites, would both set a precedent and be ineffective

Priavcy is a requirement for the proper functioning of any democratic society.

The sale of Mobileye to Intel is not surprising when you consider that last year MIT Technology Review ranked the Jerusalem-based company as one of the 10 smartest companies in the world. As such, the real story is the relationship between government, society, and technology.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that “the time has come for the Start-Up Nation to also have a Start-Up Government.” I agree. But can it be done?

What is the state of freedom of information in Israel? Like in the US, there is good and bad news.

In Israel, we talk a lot about innovation. But what does the term really mean?

Ahead of a recent discussion by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on the “Facebook Bill,” IDI’s Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler wrote a policy statement in which she called the bill non-applicable to the modern day. She said the bill is likely to cause disproportionate censorship through what will be dysfunctional legal proceedings.

Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler argues that the Protection of Privacy Law does not create an absolute right, and whoever enters public life must be able to give up parts of his/her privacy, no matter how difficult that might be. This op-ed originally appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times.

The challenge of freedom of information goes beyond the balance between the right to information and the limits of that right.

Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler argues that the main reason the coup in Turkey fizzled is not because of Erdogan’s FaceTime message, but because he had been anticipating this putsch for quite a few years and had arranged the entire legal apparatus that governs the relationship between the Turkish government and the media accordingly.