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'The Coordinator': Israel instructs Palestinians to download app that tracks their phones

Lawyers say the app 'cynically exploits public distress and panic' during the coronavirus pandemic 
In order to install the app, users need to approve terms that include collecting information ''for any purpose" (AFP/File pic)

Palestinians who need to verify whether their permits to remain in Israel are still valid have been advised by Israel to download an app that enables the military access to their mobile phones.

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The app, known as "Al Munasiq," or “The Coordinator” in Arabic, allows the army to track the user’s phone location as well as access any notifications they receive, files they download or save, and the device's camera. 

Palestinians who are granted a permit to reside in Israel – normally for humanitarian reasons or for family reunification – are usually required to physically visit the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat) offices to check their status. 

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the offices are now closed.

According to Israel's Haaretz newspaper, in order 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.”

Application 'damages human dignity'

In a letter, Adi Lustigman and Benjamin Agsteribbe, lawyers with Hamoked, an Israel-based human rights organisation, wrote: “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.”  

Haaretz quoted Cogat as responding 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 said it had closed its offices and service centres in the occupied West Bank following orders from the health ministry.

“As a result, a resident who wants to receive information as to the status of the permit they hold can use the telephone service centre, or ‘The Coordinator’ application alternatively," the organisation said.

"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.”