Legal Guidelines for Searching Online Computer Content

Israel Democracy Institute, 4 Pinsker Street

What is the proper balance between protecting citizens' right to privacy and serving the public interest by way of heightened law enforcement procedures?

Privacy issues raised by the sheer volume of information stored on our computers and the ease in which it can be accessed and viewed are running up against legitimate law enforcement concerns regarding content of potentially evidentiary value. This phenomenon is worth discussing. 

This meeting, attended by members of the Justice Department's Counselling and Legislation Department, attempted to answer the following questions:

  • What are the rights and interests at stake?
  • How can privacy interests of the individual be balanced with public concerns?
  • Should a distinction be made between the authority to obtain evidence for use in a criminal proceedings and the authority required to obtain evidence for regulatory purposes? If so, what should this distinction be?
  • Is it necessary to create a hierarchy that distinguishes between different types of online content (such as limiting a search to emails)? If so, how should such a distinction be formulated into law?
  • Is it right to concentrate computer search authority exclusively in the Police Department, or is a decentralized approach that includes providing regulatory agencies with the power to search computers more appropriate? 
  • What are the trends around the world regarding the issue of computer searches that are not conducted by law enforcement entities?

Event participants:

Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer – IDI Vice President, Research

Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler – Head, IDI Open Government Project


Adv. Ophir Bar Tal – Nature and Parks Authority, Legal Counsel

Adv. Avital Begin – Ministry of Justice

Adv. Reut Bing – Ministry of Justice

Adv. Dan Chai

Adv. Ravid Dekel, Head of the penalty field, the Ministry of Justice division of Consultation and Legislation (criminal)

Adv. Dalit Dror, Chief Legal Advisor to the Ministry of Environmental Protection

Adv. Gavriella Fisman – Ministry of Justice

 Adv. Rachel Aridor-Hershkovitz – IDI Assistant Researcher

Adv. Elazar Kahana – Israel Police Department, Deputy Attorney General

Adv. Yonatan Klinger – Israeli Digital Rights Movement, Legal Counsel

Adv. Lila Margalit – IDI Researcher

Doron Ofek - Information Security Expert

Adv. Avner Pinchuk – The Association for Civil Rights in Israel

Adv. Gili Basman Ringold – Information and Technology Authority, Head of Legal Department

Adv. Gil Shapira- Ministry of Justice, Senior Manager, Legislation Department

Adv. Talya Steiner – IDI Project Manager, Proportionality in Public Policy

Adv. Hanna Tiri, Legal Counsel to the Consumer Protection Authority 

Adv. Haim Vismonsky – Ministry of Justice, Head of Prosecutorial Legislations