CIE in the News

The Fight against online hate

Categories: Antisemitism, CIE in the News, News Categories: Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Australian Jewish News (Sydney Edition) reports on the completion of the first stage of CIE’s new project to combat online hate. The first stage, funded by B’nei B’rith Australia and New Zealand, involved the design of a solution for emprically monitoring online hate, particularly in social media. The solution was presented at an experts meeting of the Online Antisemitism Working Group of the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism which took place in Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem in early July 2011. Following this meeting it was presented at B’nei B’rith events in Sydney and Melbourne. A report containing detailed information on the project was also created.

Source: Chantal Abitbol, The Fight against online hate, Australian Jewish News, 22 July 2011

Plans for Australian-designed software, which seeks to identify and disect online antisemitism, have been unveiled.

The system called Fight Against Hate is the brainchild of social media expert Andre Oboler, and forms one component of the Community Internet Engagement (CIE) project launched in Melbourne in January.

According to Oboler, its aim is to produce empirical data about the colume of online hate, focusing specifically on social-media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

Its features include allowing the public to report content to a third party, separating data from questionable content, and producing trend reports on processed data. Over the past few weeks, Oboler has criss-crossed the globe to present the first-stage design of the softwarer — first at the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism in Israel and last weekend at B’nei B’rith events in Sydney and Melbourne.

“The response has been very positive,” Oboler told The AJN this week.

“The consensus is that this is something new and very much needed. And from the experts dealing with online hate, the view is that this is a tool that would allow them to do [much] deeper analysis, which they can’t really do at the moment. So far all we have is samples, not empirical data.

“The aim is to try and clean up social media,” Oboler said. “If we do that, we can start changing social values so that hate is again seen as not acceptable in society.”

Now all that is needed is the fundign to build it.

Oboler is trying to raise $230,000 to get it off the ground, with another $200,000 a year to cover operating costs. This is in addition to the CIE core operating budget.

“As soon as we have the funding we can start,” he said.

“What we hope is that the major donors in the Australian Jewish community are willing to step forward collectively so this solution can remain a primarily Australian initiative, covering not only antisemitism, but online hate in general. As a multicultural and innovative society, we believe it fitting that Australia is seen to take the lead in this arena.”

CIE NOTE: The CIE project has actually been operating since September 2009, not January (as indicated in this article), and its core funding is generously provided by the Pratt Foundation. The B’nei B’rith contribution provided additional capital to employ the additional staff needed for Fight Against Hate project.

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Jerusalem Report features CIE’s work combating online antisemitism

Categories: Antisemitism, CIE in the News, News Categories: Tags: , , ,

Lawrence Rifkin, The (Sometimes) Antisocial Network, Jerusalem Report, May 9 2011

Israel and Jewish organizations are scrambling to exploit the good side of Internet 2.0, but also to minimize its potential for spreading anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments.

NOT LONG AGO, IF THE conversation veered toward anti-Semitism on the Internet, it would focus on what seemed like an endless number of dedicated hate sites. These sites were so ubiquitous that Google, which relies on complex computer codes called algorithms to find entries that are relevant to what’s typed in its search window, would trumpet the hate site Jew Watch at the very top of its results for the word “Jew.”

The barrage of complaints that rolled in apparently made Google rethink at least some of its algorithms – so that typing the word “Jew” now brings in, high on the list of results, the following disclaimer: “If you recently used Google to search for the word “Jew,” you may have seen results that were very disturbing. We assure you that the views expressed by the sites in your results are not in any way endorsed by Google.

…Sometimes subtleties of language cause anomalies to appear that cannot be predicted.

A search for ‘Jew’ brings up one such unexpected result.”

While there is far more than just one “unexpected result” (dedicated hate sites have probably multiplied since the Google/Jew uproar was first heard), some of the hatred has been migrating to a still evolving phenomenon called Internet 2.0. A sobriquet conjured up to imply a completely new Internet – which, in a way, it is – Internet 2.0 is unlike traditional websites designed for passive use. Internet 2.0 is built around what’s called “interoperability.”

This is hi-tech-speak for user interaction, and its denizens include social networking sites like the immensely popular Facebook and video-sharing sites such as Google’s YouTube, where, according to publicists, the servers upload 35 hours worth of footage from users every minute.

INTERNET 2.0 BRINGS PEOPLE together and further democratizes an already democratic medium. It allows anyone with a computer browser and modem – and no web publishing knowledge at all – to post text, photos, audio recordings and videos on the World Wide Web, usually for free.

That’s clearly a significant upside, and to revert to an old catchphrase, it can be very good for the Jews.

On Facebook alone, one can find any number of pages devoted to things Jewish and Israeli, ranging from organizations such as Chabad, USY and Peace Now to ad hoc groups calling themselves “I Stand with Israel Today” and “I’m Not Yelling… I’m Jewish… That’s How We Talk.” And as for YouTube, who among us in the lead-up to Passover did not receive at least one e-card or e-mail linked to an impressive holiday video presentation or a hilarious rendition of an old classic somehow reworked into a modern-day iteration of Moses and the 10 plagues? Israeli officials responsible for hasbara – a Hebrew term that refers to explaining Israel’s official policies and points of view – have zeroed in on Internet 2.0. The army has its own YouTube “channel” (www.youtube.com/ user/idfnadesk) with how-to videos for soonto- be inductees – along with spy drone footage of rocket-launching crews at work in Gaza.

And Benjamin Netanyahu got in on the act in late March when he was interviewed in a live television broadcast that, because it simultaneously appeared on YouTube, allowed questions to be put verbally to the prime minister in real time from around the world.

The official Internet 2.0 face of Israel is the Foreign Ministry’s Information and Internet Department.

“Over two years ago, we noticed that more and more people are getting their information from social media and not just from websites,” department head Chaim Shacham tells The Jerusalem Report. “We don’t really have a strong sense of where the best hasbara should be, so we decided to go where most of the people are.”

The department has its own Facebook page (www.facebook.com/israelmfa), You Tube channel (www.youtube.com/israel) and Twitter account (www.twitter.com/israel), and uses them for what might be termed “proactive hasbara.”

“We view our business as branding Israel, not defending it,” Shacham says. “More and more people can identify with Israel if they can identify with the content. People using the new media usually want a burst of information and then to be drawn in. We use Internet 2.0 as a net, and then try to guide them to Internet 1.0 for a reservoir of content.”

On Facebook, the netting process begins when a client looks up a friend. The friend’s page reflects things he or she does and likes. If the friend has seen the Foreign Ministry’s Facebook page and recommends it to others, the friend will note this with the nowomnipresent “Like.” And because so much of Facebook relies on links – perhaps the World Wide Web’s most unique tool – if the friend hasn’t posted a “Like” for the ministry’s page, there’s a chance the client will link to the page of a mutual friend who has.

Once you reach the Foreign Ministry’s Facebook page you’ll see Shacham’s “burst of information,” links that take you to his “Internet 1.0,” the ministry’s dedicated website (www.mfa/gov.il). That site is jam-packed with just about everything you might want to know about Israel – or, to be more blunt, just about everything Israel would want you to know. It is, after all, about branding.

“Yes, we want people to know about issues,” he tells The Report. “But we want them to learn about them while learning about Israel with its rich history, about the innovative Israel with hi-tech success and business opportunities, and about the Israel experience, with its tourism, arts and multiculturalism.”

Of course, as with any website, the address of one’s Facebook, YouTube and Twitter page is important: the simpler and more direct, the easier it is to remember. The Foreign Ministry’s YouTube and Twitter pages once had the “MFA” suffix that its Facebook page still has, but just plain “Israel” has been the goal.

“YouTube was withholding the name and we had to go through a lengthy process to prove we were the official representative of the Israeli government,” Shacham explains. “With Twitter it was a little different. It turns out that a pornographer in Florida whose first name is Israel owned the name. We ended up paying him $5,000 for the rights.”

SO MUCH FOR THE UP – or lighter – side of Internet 2.0. Its biggest downside, on the other hand, is the ease of accessibility for purveyors of hatred and hostility. And with regard to Israel, these are not limited just to anti-Semites or Israel-bashers.

They prominently included Jews and Israelis who vent their wrath on Arabs and on each other.

The recent brouhaha over a Facebook advocacy page in Arabic titled The Third Intifada serves as an illustration. On the surface, The Third Intifada exhorted followers from the West Bank and other Arab countries to stage something of a “million-man march” right up to the border with Israel on May 15, the Gregorian date of Israel’s independence and a day the Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or the catastrophe. However, according to critics, the page had an undertone that could be construed as incitement to hatred and even violence against both Israelis and Jews, while user comments often were much less subtle.

Jewish watchdog groups, such as the Anti- Defamation League, appealed to Facebook, which in late March, after a bit of foot dragging, removed the page. Nonetheless, it has since reappeared in several forms, in turn spawning Facebook pages such as “Against the Third Palestinian Intifada” and “Crush the Third Intifada Page.”

“New ways of using the web, such as social networking sites like Facebook and user-generated content sites such as YouTube, have led to an explosion of online bullying,” says Deborah Lauter, ADL’s director for civil rights. “Social networking sites are also used to promulgate hate and extremist content, increasing the depth and breadth of hate material that is available and which confronts nonextremist users,” she tells The Report.

Lauter says her organization works directly with “service providers such as Facebook” to confront the problem.

“Our discussions are fruitful and ongoing,” she says. “It is critical to note that the amount of material – Facebook has hundreds of millions of pages, YouTube has hours of videos uploaded every second, and Twitter has 140 million tweets per day – makes it virtually impossible for pre-posting policing of material.”

Replying to a Jerusalem Report query on the Intifada page matter, Facebook spokesman Simon Axten e-mailed the following – apparently boilerplate – response: “[W]e don’t typically take down content that speaks out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.

However, we monitor Pages that are reported to us, and when they degrade to direct calls for violence or expressions of hate, we have and will continue to remove them.”

The spokesman referred to the specific issue as follows: “The Third Palestinian Intifada Page, while using a term that has been associated with violence in the past [referring to the term Intifada - ed], began as a call for peaceful protest. In addition, the administrators initially removed comments that promoted violence. However, once the Page gathered publicity, comments deteriorated to direct calls for violence, and eventually, the Page administrators themselves also participated in these calls. After sending several warnings to the administrators about posts that violated our policies, we removed the Page.”

ENTER ANDRE OBOLER, A SOCIAL media expert who directs the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia and co-chairs the working group on online anti-Semitism for the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism. Oboler holds a PhD in computer science and in 2007-2008 was a post-doctoral fellow in political science at Israel’s Bar- Ilan University.

Taking his cue from the moniker given the new interactive Internet when it began gathering speed several years ago, Oboler coined the term “anti-Semitism 2.0.”

“The difference from classic anti-Semitism,” he tells The Report, “is that it tries to put on a socially acceptable face. Success here lowers social resistance to bigotry.”

By way of example, Oboler says he is bothered less by Stormfront, an openly anti- Semitic website run by white supremacists, than he is with the ostensibly benign Facebook, which can give similar material a veneer of respectability.

“I’m not so concerned about the spread of hate among people who hate us already,” he says. “I’m far more concerned about the spread of hate material to our friends and to those we’d want to be our friends in the future.”

Beyond the veneer, he says, the issue is also in the presentation.

“Anti-Semitism 2.0 mixes 50 percent racism and 50 percent claims of why it’s not racism. It compares Israel to Nazis, but goes on to say ‘we’re not racists,’ and then offers what it calls citations, but which are not really citations,” Oboler explains.

He claims that this modus operandi is particularly striking on Wikipedia. “You see a lot of things that are referenced to faulty, misused and fictitious citations. It is an attempt to portray hatred as an academic argument, all wrapped up in a legitimate website rather than an overtly hateful site.”

An overtly hateful website, he goes on, is much easier to have removed or filtered by search engines. “But you’re not going to pull down Facebook because of the anti-Semitism it contains. So the question is, what sort of ethical stand are Facebook and YouTube, for example, going to take on enforcement against hate messages?” Facebook’s Axten offers a short and, again, stock explanation of policy.

“Facebook is highly self-regulating,” his statement reads. “We provide report links on nearly every page and encourage people to let us know when they see something they think might violate our standards. Our team of investigators reviews and takes action on reported content according to our policies.”

Paul Solomon, spokesman for YouTube in Israel, is equally succinct. “Essentially, the community is the first line of defense. We review all flagged videos quickly, and if we find that they do violate the Guidelines, we remove them.”

Yet he provides a bit of depth by explaining just how the company’s review system works: “There are three components,” Solomon wrote in response to a request from The Report.

“1) The community flags the video. Despite the rumor that flagging campaigns will remove a video, a single flag is sufficient to trigger this system. 2) Our algorithms prioritize the video in the queue. The algorithms examine things like flesh tones (for sexual content), the history of previous flags (i.e., has it been flagged and approved before?), and a few other demographic factors. 3) Our reviewers perform a manual review using our review tool.”

In reconsidering a video, YouTube looks at both content and intent.

“Consider, for example, the video of the death of [post-election demonstrator] Neda Soltan in Iran,” Solomon continues. “We have policies that prohibit shocking or graphic content.

On the face of it, a video showing a young woman bleeding to death would likely be removed if it were flagged. But we make exceptions for videos that have educational, documentary, scientific or artistic (EDSA) value, provided that it is balanced with the additional context.”

More recently, the Israel-based Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), which, according to its website, looks for mass incitement and demonization against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, had a run-in with YouTube, where it maintained its own channel. Apparently, an organized flagging campaign was mounted against PMW, and YouTube, most likely having taken only a superficial look without considering the context, eventually removed enough PMW videos to justify shutting down the entire channel – which, after a short appeal process, was reopened.

The same happened to a photo presentation uploaded by Jewish settlers after the government, in a highly controversial move, released graphic and gruesome photos of the bodies of five members of the Fogel family, including a three-month-old baby, who were butchered in their West Bank settlement in March. The move, Israeli officials openly said, was intended to show the true brutality of Arab terrorism, but YouTube looked at the content and said no – although it later relented.

Facebook and YouTube seem to have divergent approaches, Oboler tells The Report.

“With YouTube it’s ‘If in doubt, remove.’With Facebook it’s, ‘If in doubt, don’t remove.’” In a report published earlier this year, Oboler illustrates that flags and even written complaints might not always be enough, even with YouTube, where a group calling itself “theytnazism” presented a “list of people we hate and we want to kill… 1. Blacks, 2. Jews, 3. Indians.”

“I reported this to YouTube in February [2010],” Oboler writes, “and on November 22 – 10 months later – [the group’s YouTube page] was still active…. I then included [a screenshot of the page] in a set of slides for a conference on anti-Semitism run by the World Zionist Organization in France… and suddenly the group was gone.”

He believes this was not coincidental, as other groups he had complained to YouTube about, but never mentioned publicly, remained online.

“It’s all good and well to tell the public to report things,” Oboler tells The Report.

“Having people flag things is far more effective than any algorithms. But what happens afterward? The problem is how you decide when you’ve crossed the bridge. The driving force that pushes these companies to do anything is public pressure. It becomes a threat in a corporate sense.”

In a forthcoming report titled “A legal model for government intervention to combat online hate,” Oboler, as part of his work with the Zionist Federation of Australia, calls on that country to broaden existing anti-hate laws to more effectively combat the growing phenomenon on the Internet.

“Governments have a responsibility to take an active role in the online world; if they don’t they cannot meet their wider obligations to the people they serve,” he writes. “The powers, rights and limitations that apply to governments and private citizens in the real world need to be reflected online.”

He also aims his words at “[t]hose advising clients in the technology sector,” warning them that they “should be aware of the potential for increased government intervention.”

Oboler tells The Report that “the use of new media technology can bring governments and communities together. It’s just a channel that can be used for good and for ill, and we have to maximize its use for good.”

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New Commentary in Search Engine Land on Google Street View

Categories: CIE in the News, Technology: Tags: , ,

Matt McGee, Israel: Google Street View Will Be “Good For Tourism & Image”, Search Engine Land, Mar 6, 2011

If all goes according to plan, Google’s Street View service should be driving through select cities in Israel soon and the photos could be online later this year.

It’ll be Street View’s first move into the Middle East but, despite the obvious security concerns, the Israeli government says the service will be good for tourism and appears to be ready to let it launch with what one interested observer calls a “minimalist approach” to security issues.

About two weeks ago, a committee led by Israel Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor announced plans to cooperate with Google to bring Street View to Israel. The committee announcement says Israel’s experts will “work to protect vital public interests” in its talks with Google.

But Dr. Andre Oboler, director of the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia and editor of ZionismOnTheWeb.org, tells Search Engine Land that Israel’s approach to Street View security may be no more strict than any other country.

“When I spoke with the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem,” Oboler says, “they said they were looking forward to working with Google Street View and that ‘It will be good for tourism and for Israel’s image’. When I asked about restrictions, I was told security installations would be off limits, personal privacy would be respected, and ‘everything else is fine’. This is a minimalist approach, no different from Europe, which is surprising given Israel’s very real security concerns.”

Security Concerns Over Street View In Israel

Not everyone agrees with the idea of a minimalist approach to Street View restrictions in Israel. Mordechai Kedar, a retired Lt. Col. who served 25 years in Israeli intelligence told the AP that Street View could help terrorists find new targets. “We already have problems with Google Earth, which exposes all kinds of facilities,” Kedar said.

In fact, Palestinian militants have already admitted that they use Google Earth when planning rocket strikes in Israel. In 2007, Google said it was looking into accusations that anti-Israel propaganda had been added as an imagery layer by Google Earth users. There’s even a US law that prevents the sale of satellite images of Israel at very high/specific resolutions.

History would seem to suggest that Israel should be hesitant about Street View. But Oboler says the government is “ready to engage” despite the possibility that some Street View images may cause embarrassment or worse.

“Links to pictures of Palestinians being searched at security check points will no doubt flood the internet,” he says. “The various protests that cause clashes with police will no doubt be caught by the Street View car, even if protesters need to be there continually for months to ensure it happens. Street View will, of course, see the security measures Israeli’s themselves go through on a result basis, such as a full airport-like security check, complete with an X-ray on bags, just to enter a shopping center or bus station. It will see the fallen rockets and holes ripped into trees, walls, and concrete missile shelters in Sderot. Ultimately, with everything captured by the Street View car, it will be a matter of what people search for, and which images go viral through social media. With hostile governments, terrorist organizations, and NGOs that have become partisan to the conflict in an anti-Israel manner, all scouring the Street View images for material to attack Israel, there will be political fall out.”

In a recent blog post for the Jerusalem Post about the pros and cons of Street View, Oboler suggested that Google be required to store its Street View data in Israel in order to ensure that the government can hold Google accountable to whatever terms the two sides agree on. But as others have pointed out, Google’s infrastructure is based on the use of thousands of redundant servers around the world and its products likely wouldn’t work if they were limited to hosting in a single country. Oboler recognizes that such a requirement would “force a significant change to Google’s approach to Street View’s implementation.”

Google Remains Quiet

Google’s cars have not yet driven in Israel and the company is staying quiet about its timetable for launching Street View in Israel. A Google spokesperson shared with us the same statement that it’s given other reporters recently:

Street View is a popular feature of Google Maps which is already available in 27 countries. We aim to offer the benefits of street-level imagery to users all around the world, however, we have nothing specific to announce at this time.

Despite the Israeli government’s apparent enthusiasm for the service, there are reports that Google would move slowly in Israel, potentially only driving three cities: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. Such limitations in where Street View goes might mitigate some of the potentially troubling images that Oboler mentioned above – missile shelters in Sderot, for example.

For now, Google and the Israeli government are talking through the steps necessary to launch Street View in Israel. The government’s statement indicated a desire that Google “operate the service in Israel as soon as possible.” Perhaps more so than in any other country to date, people will be watching Israel closely when it happens.

(flag image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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Arab World’s Leaders Are Facebook Fans, Too

Categories: CIE in the News, Public Diplomacy: Tags: , ,

Source: David E. Miller, Arab World’s Leaders Are Facebook Fans, Too, The Media Line, 2 March 2011

Social networking isn’t just for the opposition, but managing rulers’ pages is tricky

“Dear Queen Rania, what’s happening with the revocation of my father’s citizenship? For god’s sake, we were all born in Jordan. Please hurry up and help us get our Jordanian citizenship.”

This personal letter sent from Ibrahem Al-Gbale, most likely a disgruntled Jordanian of Palestinian origin, to his queen, would until recently have been dealt with quietly through private appeals to the well-connect officials. But these days Rania and a few other Middle East leaders are using Facebook to reach out to the public, subjecting themselves to open criticism as much as praise in the process.

Facebook has been hailed as a tool of revolution that has spread across the Middle East, the means by which young Tunisians, Egyptians and others spread their message and organize their rallies. But when they are not banning the world’s favorite social network, the region’s rulers are learning to use it, too.

“Facebook can be a great public diplomacy tool. It becomes a way to communicate with the masses and gain popular support. This was demonstrated most sharply by [U.S. President Barack] Obama during his election campaign,” Andre Oboler, an Australian expert on social media, told The Media Line.

Two weeks ago, the Saudi royal court opened a dedicated page on the social network where citizens can forward their grievances to King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz Al-Saud with the click of a button. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad last week announced he was using his two-year-old Facebook page to help him out of a deadlock in forming his new interim government.

The catch is that Facebook in a Janus-like device, a conduit for polishing the leader’s image and letting the public praise him or her, but also a place for people to direct their grievances and stage personal attacks. Rulers’ pages have to strike a balance between looking real and personal while not letting negative sentiments overwhelm them.

With Libya spinning out of control over the past week as rebels battle government troops and close in on the capital Tripoli, harsh abuse has filled the Facebook page of Saif Al-Islam Al-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader’s best-known son and – until he delivered a blood-curdling speech threatening the opposition last week – the one family member seen as the most progressive and tech-savvy.

One post claimed that the wife of the Libyan dictator and two of his children had fled to Austria and called on readers to protest across their Vienna hotel.

“Saif, your credentials as a reformer have been flushed down the drain,” one commentator wrote on the wall. “Be careful and remember what happened to Qusay and Uday Hussein,” a harsh reference to the slain sons of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Perhaps one of the most unexpected Facebook pages is that of Asma Al-Assad, wife of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Facebook had been banned in Syria until a month ago, with users forced to log in through proxy servers overseas. Internet World Stats estimates there were only 30,000 Facebook users in all of Syria, a country of 22 million people, as of August 2010.

More modest than Queen Rania’s Facebook page, it displays intimate photos of Asma dining with her husband in a cozy Paris restaurant and a jeans-wearing Bashar planting trees in the Qatana region. Even in this tightly regimented society, criticism of the regime slipped through onto Asma’s Facebook page, alongside the predictable salutations.

“We don’t deny that we love Bashar Al-Assad and don’t want any other president,” a Facebook user named Samer Faad wrote on Asma’s wall. “But we want speedy reforms and an end to corruption, especially that of Rami Makhluf [Assad's cousin] and the thieving officers who constitute two thirds of the Interior Ministry. We want the entire government to be changed as well.”

Media Line’s attempt to contact Al-Assad’s page administrator was unsuccessful, but the page seemed professionally managed, feeding viewers with high-quality personal images of the Syrian first lady and her family.

“No public figure should be engaged in on-line public relations without monitoring and editorial ability,” Oboler said. “The real secret is that during a crisis, the posts can be managed by professional staff while continuing to masquerade as a particular individual.”

Oboler noted that Facebook has a built-in bias in favor of positive feedback, because “liking” content takes one click whereas no similar facility existed for “disliking” content. With nearly 600,000 fans, Queen Rania doesn’t have to worry much about brickbats.

“Negative feedback can be left as comment, but this requires a greater amount of effort,” Oboler said. “The effort required to remove a comment is far smaller than to post one. Hence, provided they play the game right, Facebook can be manipulated and the message controlled.”

Fayyad, the Palestinian premier, has pioneered a new function for Facebook, as a way for soliciting candidates for ministerial posts as he reshuffles his cabinet. His team stepped down at his behest February 14, but Fayyad struggled to reconstitute it in the face of opposition from Hamas Islamists and Left wing factions.

“In light of the ongoing consultations aiming to form a government, which people do you consider credible, have excellent leadership and scientific skills, and can be relied on to hold a ministerial portfolio?” Fayyad asked on his page last week. Public responses immediately began to flow.

Jamal Zaqout, Fayyad’s media and civil society adviser, said his boss’ Facebook page was started privately by a Palestinian citizen because he appreciated the prime minister’s work. In an unusual arrangement, the page is still operated privately but with the full cooperation of the Prime Minister’s Office.

“The page was opened some two years ago and is not the result of the so-called ‘Facebook revolution’,” Zaqout told The Media Line. “It’s one of many tools the prime minister uses to stay in touch with the people. It doesn’t replace tours on the ground and regular meetings with civil society groups.”

Zaqout praised Facebook as an effective tool of communication, but it’s not the only on-line conduit: The Prime Minister’s Office operates a digital media unit, which conveys his messages through Twitter and a personal blog.

“Five minutes after the prime minister makes a public appearance, photos of the event are disseminated online through Google and news aggregates in the United States, which reach millions of people,” Zaqout said. “We try to move with the times and maintain contact with the public.”

The Saudi royal court opened a Facebook page earlier this month, calling on citizens to voice their grievances directly by posting them on the page’s wall or sending them by fax or e-mail to the court, the numbers of which appear on the page.

Oboler said that Facebook is an effective tool only when it appears to be honest, a test he said Queen Rania’s page appears to pass. No doubt some outside comments are censored, but all Facebook users, even ordinary people, engage in that kind of censorship, he said.

Indeed, one response appearing on Queen Rania’s page is even more surprising than the original protest letter posted on it.

“The King and Queen should apologize to you, Ibrahim, for the difficulties they caused you,” a user titled “New Jordan” wrote. “The King and Queen are those who left the country to mental patients and haters who unjustly strip people of their nationality.”

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Commentary Magazine: Israel Moves to Limit Google Street View Risks

Categories: CIE in the News, Technology: Tags: , ,

Source: Omri Ceren, Israel Moves to Limit Google Street View Risks, Commentary Magazine, 27/2/2011

My friend Dr. Andre Oboler has an exhaustive article up on the Jerusalem Post site about the potential risks and benefits of Google Street View coming to Israel. The service, as most people know, allows you to take “virtual tours” up and down streets mapped by Google Maps (and Google Maps itself goes way beyond public streets, into zoos, amusement parks, and so on).

The problem, of course, is that terrorists and militias use services like Google Maps and Google Earth to maximize their carnage. The Mumbai terrorists very famously mapped out their attacks beforehand using Google services. Google Earth images of British military bases were found in the homes of Iraqi insurgents. And the Iranian proxies surrounding Israel have been bragging for years that they use Google Earth to set rocket targets.

On the other hand, it’s a losing battle to fight the spread of information, especially when Google gets involved. The deep controversy is about the advance of technology outpacing our legal and ethical coping mechanisms, but that’s not really important for this context. Suffice to say that new communication technologies are being developed and deployed almost recklessly, and certainly in the absence of mass public deliberation. India expressed concerns about Google Maps and Google Earth as early as 2005, those concerns were largely ignored, and then Mumbai happened. Israel is afraid that something similar will occur.

But the Jewish state is small enough that at least some checks can potentially be enacted, and Israeli security services are calling for exactly that. Oboler suggests several obvious measures:

Any permission to proceed with Google Street View should be coupled with both specific and general obligations on Google; for example, an obligation to collect and use data only in a manner consistent with the public interest, and an obligation to respect the rights of individuals. Keeping the data in Israel is the only way to ensure the Israeli courts can order enforcement. … Israel also has a responsibility to act in the Interests of its people and of the Jewish people more generally. … Israel may also request further unrelated guarantees from Google, such as an undertaking to cooperate more fully with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the fight against Antisemitism.

This is a conversation that should be happening in the United States as well. Google and similar companies make billions by quite literally entering and mapping public spaces and then selling ads related to what they organize. They don’t really owe anyone anything if they’re only helping convey information, but new technologies do introduce new risks, and inevitably Google Maps will be exploited for a domestic terrorist attacks. It’s something that should be talked about more, and more explicitly and more publicly.

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Discover Magazine: Google Street View Runs Into Controversies

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Source: Patrick Morgan, Google Street View Runs Into Controversies in Switzerland and Israel, Discover Magazine, February 24th, 2011

Last year, Google raised the ire of many when it confessed that its city-mapping Street View vehicles unintentionally gathered unencrypted Wi-Fi data as they rolled past people’s abodes. To fix its image and to fend off lawsuits, the company soon tightened its privacy policies and ensured that its Street View cars stopped collecting that information. But the controversies just won’t stop. Google is now trying to convince privacy-conscious Swiss officials to drop the country’s tight Street View restrictions, while security-conscious Israeli officials are concerned that the technology will help terrorists.

Twenty-seven countries have been partially mapped via Street View, a Google product that provides 360-degree panoramic views from ground level. The company creates these images by sending groups of camera-studded vehicles to various parts of the world to snap pictures as they drive.

Although Switzerland is home to one of Google’s largest offices outside the United States, the country has strict privacy laws that have prevented Google from loading new Street View images of Switzerland for the past year. On Thursday, Google petitioned a Swiss court to lift this ban. The search engine company told Switzerland’s Federal Administrative Court that its technology automatically conceals the identity of faces and license plates, and that it is no different from rival services.

But Hanspeter Thuer, Switzerland’s data protection commissioner, doesn’t believe Google: He showed several examples of images in which the people were readily identifiable.

“I don’t want a ban of Google Street View,” Thuer told the court. “But in the present form Google Street View breaches basic principles of privacy.” … Thuer wants Google to guarantee that all faces and car plates are blurred — if necessary by checking all pictures manually. He also demanded that private gardens and sensitive locations such as schools, hospitals and women’s shelters be obscured. Google lawyers countered that the company is continually improving its Street View technology and that the images are too banal, and of too poor quality, to be used to identify individuals whose privacy might be breached. [AP]

While the Swiss court is still thinking the matter over, Google is still taking pictures. The company wants to add the ski slopes around Switzerland’s Matterhorn mountain in its Street View maps, and recently sent out a camera-equipped snowmobile.

Street View’s constant expansion is also set to include Israel, where some government officials hope the online maps will promote tourism. However, other officials worry that the photographs of streets and buildings would aid Palestinian militants, who have already used Google Earth to identify rocket targets.

“We already have problems with Google Earth, which exposes all kinds of facilities,” retired Lt. Col. Mordechai Kedar told the Associated Press. The 25-year veteran of Israeli intelligence said that Street View could facilitate terrorist attacks. [Los Angeles Times]

On Monday the Israeli Cabinet discussed the issues surrounding Street View, and ultimately decided to start working with Google on how the service could be safely introduced to the country. Experts say it’s likely that Street View will be prohibited from posting photographs of particularly sensitive locations, like government offices and power stations. And some Israelis think the Israeli government shouldn’t make the decision for the entire country, and argue that communities should be given a choice on whether to use Street View.

Andre Oboler, director of the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia, wrote in a blog post on the Jerusalem Post website that Street View could boost tourism in public places of historical, cultural and religious interest…. “Gated communities, kibbutzim and villages for new immigrants in particular should have a right to keep out the Street View car, or to invite it in. The default should be exclusion until the local community give permission,” Oboler wrote. [Los Angeles Times]

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PuntoInformatico: Israel, is Street View security-conscious?

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Source: Raffaella Gargiulo, Israele, Street View attenta alla sicurezza?, PuntoInformatico, 23 Feb 2011 (in Italian, below)

A government task force is debating whether to allow Google to introduce it’s street view photo-mapping application in Israel. The availability of this data could assist in the planning of terrorist attacks.

Rome – The mapping service Google is often the subject of controversy . This time, however, the concerns and accusations against the famous Street View service did not come only because of the potential invasion of privacy but also due to security concerns: detailed pictures of Street View could provide information to any would-be bombers.

Google wants to implement street view in 28 countries, included in Israel. A special government task force met this week to discuss whether the the Google Car that captures the pictures would be allow to beging work in Israel.

Many cabinet members are worried that such information and data collected by Google may be used by extremists for terrorist purposes. The committee was assembled to assess the possible risks the service could present to the country. The committee should report back within a few weeks.

The choices before the government are complex . On the one hand, there is the issue of opening up technological innovation and promotion of Israeli cities as a tourist attraction. The application could draw the attention of the world to the streets of Tel Aviv, Haifa and the wonderful landscape of historic streets in Jerusalem; on the other hand, there is the issue of public safety.

It’s likely that even if Israeli cities were put into Street View, there would be restrictions on strategic and military points of interest, with details obscured. Pictures would not be permitted of high profile targets such as army bases, the residence of the President, power stations or embassies.

Some statements to this effect have already been released by members of the Israeli committee, led by Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor. The committee has affirmed its intention to find “as soon as possible”, the safest ways to introduced this service so that the implementation of the Google service can be consistent with the national security needs of Israel.

A spokesman for Mountain View, meanwhile, said that Google’s goal is simply to “bring the benefits of street-level imagery for users around the world.”

The question of security has been discussed in the Associated Press by Lt. Col. Mordechai Kedar, a veteran who worked for the Israeli intelligence services for 25 years. He recalled how Israel in the past had the same security fears and concerns related to terrorist activity with Google Earth. “We already have problems with Google Earth, which exposes all kinds of facilities”. He said that Street View could facilitate terrorist attacks.

Still, Andre Oboler, from the Zionist Federation of Australia, told The Jerusalem Post that Street View could boost tourism in public places of historical, cultural and religious interest, but warned also of the risks to public safety and privacy. “Gated communities, kibbutzim and villages for new immigrants, in particular, should have the right to be out of Street View mapping at least until the local community gives their permission,” he said. Oboler also suggested Israel “negotiate with Google on some key issues such as ensuring that the data collected from Street View remains on computer servers in Isreal rather than the United States, and that Google does more in the fight against antisemitism. ”

Israele, Street View attenta alla sicurezza?

Source: Raffaella Gargiulo, Israele, Street View attenta alla sicurezza?, PuntoInformatico, 23 Feb 2011

Una task force governativa per discutere se dare o meno il consenso a includere la mappatura fotografica di Israele. Tali dati potrebbero agevolare la pianificazione di attentati terroristici

Roma – Il servizio di mappatura di Google è spesso al centro di polemiche. Questa volta però le preoccupazioni e le accuse al noto servizio Street View non arrivano soltanto per via della potenziale violazione della privacy ma soprattutto per problemi di sicurezza: le immagini dettagliate di Street View potrebbero offrire informazioni ad eventuali aspiranti attentatori.

Google vorrebbe raggiungere quota 28 paesi coperti da Street View e includere nelle sue mappe anche Israele. Per tale ragione in settimana una speciale task force governativa si è riunita per discutere sulla questione del dare o meno l’approvazione alle Google Car di immortalare le strade del paese mediorientale.

Molti i membri del gabinetto allarmati del fatto che tali informazioni e dati raccolti da Google possano essere utilizzate da alcuni estremisti per scopi terroristici. La commissione è stata chiamata e riunita per valutare i possibili rischi che tale servizio potrebbe arrecare al paese. Entro poche settimane la commissione dovrebbe dare il suo responso.
La scelta del governo appare complessa. Da un lato, vi è la questione dell’apertura tecnologica e della promozione delle città israeliane a livello turistico per portare a conoscenza di tutto il mondo le strade lussuose di Tel Aviv, il meraviglioso paesaggio di Haifa e le vie piene di storia di Gerusalemme, dall’altro la questione della pubblica sicurezza.

Il dibattito, dati gli interessi in gioco, è ancora aperto. Probabilmente, nel caso in cui le città israeliane dovessero finire su Street View, si opterà per inserire delle ampie restrizioni relativamente a luoghi di interesse strategico e militare, dunque tentando di offuscare dettagli e immagini di aree pericolose, come ad esempio, le basi dell’esercito, luoghi nei quali si svolgono funzioni di difesa territoriale, o ancora i luoghi di residenza del Presidente, centrali elettriche e ambasciate etc.

Proprio a tal proposito, sono state rilasciate alcune dichiarazioni da parte dei membri del gabinetto israeliano, guidati dal Ministro dell’Intelligence Dan Meridor, nelle quali si è ribadito di voler trovare dei metodi più sicuri una volta introdotto tale servizio nei prossimi mesi. Dunque, sposare l’implementazione del servizio di Google con la necessità di sicurezza nazionale di Israele “il prima possibile”.

Un portavoce di Mountain View, intanto, ha dichiarato che l’obiettivo di Google è semplicemente quello di “offrire i benefici di immagini a livello stradale per gli utenti di tutto il mondo”.

Sulla questione è intervenuto con le sue dichiarazioni ad Associated Press il colonello Mordechai Kedatr, un veterano che ha lavorato per l’intelligence israeliana per 25 anni, che ha ricordato come Israele in passato aveva avuto i medesimi timori legati alla sicurezza e alle preoccupazioni per eventuali attacchi terroristici con Google Earth. “Abbiamo già problemi con Google Earth – ha dichiarato – che visualizza immagini satellitari di case ed edifici”, concludendo che “con Street View si potrebbero solo facilitare gli attacchi terroristici”

Ancora, Andre Oboler, della Zionist Federation of Australia, ha spiegato sul Jerusalem Post che Street View potrebbe incentivare il turismo nei luoghi pubblici di interesse storico, culturale e religioso ma ha messo in guardia rispetto ai rischi per la sicurezza pubblica e per la vita privata dei cittadini. “Comunità chiuse, kibbutz e villaggi per i nuovi immigrati, in particolare, dovrebbero avere il diritto di essere fuori dalla mappatura di Street View almeno fino a quando la comunità locale non darà loro il permesso” ha continuato il direttore. Oboler ha inoltre suggerito ad Israele di “negoziare con il colosso del web su alcuni punti chiave quali ad esempio l’assicurazione che i dati raccolti da Street View rimangano su server in Isreale e non negli Stati Uniti e l’arruolamento di Google nella lotta contro l’antisemitismo”.

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Dr Oboler’s analysis in the LA Times

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Source: Jessica Guynn, Some in Israel warn against Google Street View, Los Angeles Time, February 22, 2011

The government decides to work with Google to bring Street View to Israel in the coming months, but some cabinet members worry that the street-level photographs will help terrorists plan attacks.

Reporting from San Francisco —

Google’s popular Street View map service has sparked privacy debates around the globe.

But in Israel, government officials are worried that the service could endanger public figures by giving terrorists detailed information that could be used in carrying out attacks.

Israel said Monday that it was weighing whether to allow Google to photograph Israeli cities to promote tourist sites despite risks to privacy and safety. Street View allows users to virtually tour locations in 27 countries. Google collects three-dimensional images for the service by dispatching a fleet of camera-equipped vehicles to the locations.

Israeli Cabinet members, led by Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor, have told experts to find a safe way to introduce the feature “as soon as possible,” according to an official statement. Cabinet members discussed the security and privacy implications of Google Street View on Monday and decided to work with Google in launching the service in the coming months, according to a statement.

Google said it had no specific time frame for launching Street View in Israel. In an e-mailed statement, a spokesperson said: “We aim to offer the benefits of street-level imagery to users all around the world, however, we have nothing specific to announce at this time.”

But some in Israel are sounding the alarm.

“We already have problems with Google Earth, which exposes all kinds of facilities,” retired Lt. Col. Mordechai Kedar told the Associated Press. The 25-year veteran of Israeli intelligence said that Street View could facilitate terrorist attacks.

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have said they use Google Earth, which displays satellite images of homes and buildings, to identify targets for rocket attacks.

The privacy watchdog group Center for Digital Democracy warned of another potential downside for Israeli citizens: It could be used for political purposes, including government surveillance.

“It will be the Israeli security forces, in addition to users, that will be viewing the system to identify potential threats and those suspected of potential anti-governmental actions,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the group. “The melding of governmental and commercial interests to enhance citizen eavesdropping is a chilling prospect.”

Israel has long tried to strike a balance between the innovation in its booming high-tech sector and the risk of terrorism. Chester pointed to Google’s acquisition of Quiksee, an Israeli company that allows users to upload videos of places to Google Maps.

Google Street View has encountered intense scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators in a number of countries and in the United States, where there are concerns that Street View invades personal privacy. Google further raised privacy anxieties last year when it admitted that its vehicles inadvertently collected unencrypted data from Wi-Fi networks, setting off an intense firestorm of criticism. Google has stopped collecting Wi-Fi data for location-based services.

Google declined to say Monday which Israeli cities it might send Street View vehicles to, but it is said to be interested in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and possibly Haifa.

Even if Israel permits Google to move forward, it will probably prohibit sensitive areas from being photographed. That could include the streets where the prime minister and the president live, government compounds, security installations, power stations, foreign embassies and other high-security locations.

Andre Oboler, director of the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia, wrote in a blog post on the Jerusalem Post website that Street View could boost tourism in public places of historical, cultural and religious interest. But he warned against “blanket permission” because of risks to public safety and personal privacy.

“Gated communities, kibbutzim and villages for new immigrants in particular should have a right to keep out the Street View car, or to invite it in. The default should be exclusion until the local community give permission,” Oboler wrote.

He also suggested that Israel negotiate with Google on key points, such as housing the Street View data collected on servers in Israel, not the United States, and enlisting Google’s help in combating anti-Semitism.

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InformationWeek with Dr Oboler’s analysis on Google Street View

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Source: Alison Diana, Google Street View Entering Israel, Despite Security Concerns, InformationWeek, February 22, 2011

Some fear that terrorists could use information in the mapping service to carry out attacks, while others believe it could enhance the nation’s tourism industry.

Google has long-battled concerns that its Street View offering infringes on individual privacy, but the mapping service’s expansion into Israel is sparking concerns that terrorists could use the detailed information to carry out attacks, endangering the public and government officials.

On Monday, a government team chaired by minister Dan Meridor heard testimony from experts who discussed the implications of privacy concerns and public security, tourism, and country image, according to a government release. After directing these experts to continue working to “protect vital public interests regarding this innovative project,” Israel’s government decided to continue cooperating with Google in order to operate the Street View service within the nation “as soon as possible,” the government said.

The country hopes Street View can help promote the country’s tourism industry by showcasing attractions.


“Street View could be very useful in public spaces, parks, museums, hotels, and places of historical, cultural, and religious interest. It could significantly help tourism. A Street View of the old city in particular could prove very popular,” wrote Andre Oboler, director of the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia, wrote in a blog in the Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Not all regions should appear, cautioned some government officials. In particular, Israel is concerned about photographing sensitive locations, such as areas near the homes of the president and prime minister, retired lieutenant colonel Mordechai Kedar told the Associated Press.

“We already have problems with Google Earth, which exposes all kinds of facilities,” said Kedar, who spent 25 years with Israeli intelligence, noting that Street View could facilitate terrorist attacks within the nation.

Like some counterparts in Europe and the United States, individual Israelis also may be concerned. Israel has privacy laws in place, and Google must comply, Yoram Hacohen, an attorney who heads the Israeli law, information, and technology authority at Israel’s Justice Ministry, told iBlogAuto.

“The law mandates that the public be informed by anyone collecting information for a database. If it wants to operate the service, it must advertise in newspapers that it plans to photograph particular areas. Anyone who doesn’t want to be photographed must approach Google ahead of time and ask not to be,” he said. “It’s clear that the public must be informed about these activities. If someone discovers himself on Street View and wants to have the image removed, there is a way to do this in the system. A person can erase himself. We will ask that the erasure and application processes be in Hebrew and not English.”

To collect data for Street View, Google sends out specially equipped cars to film all streets and buildings. In the process, the autos sometimes capture individuals, and the cars’ equipment also has grabbed users’ unencrypted wireless network data. Currently, Google offers the three-dimensional tour service in 27 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and France.

Google does not have a specific launch date in mind for an Israeli service, according to published reports. The company on Monday declined to reveal which cities it would like to dispatch Street View vehicles to first, but it is said to be interested in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and possibly Haifa, said the Zionist Federation’s Oboler.

“We aim to offer the benefits of street-level imagery to users all around the world, however, we have nothing specific to announce at this time,” Google told the AP.

Although the government debate may mark Google Street View’s first formal entry into Israel, the developer is not new to the country. In September 2010 it acquired Quiksee — also known as MentorWave Technologies — for an estimated $10 million, and in April 2010 it bought LabPixies for about $25 million. Quiksee develops 3D tour software that lets users add to a Google map, creating an image similar to that shown in Street View. For its part, LabPixies writes widgets for iGoogle, Android, and the iPhone.


But Street View’s rollout may not go as smoothly, if the technology’s history is any indicator.

Governments in the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Spain, as well as states such as Connecticut have raised varying levels of concern with Google. In December, Google refused to turn over to the Connecticut attorney general data its street-mapping vehicles gathered from personal and business wireless networks throughout the state.

“I am disappointed by Google’s failure to comply with my information demands,” Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal told InformationWeek. “We will review any information we receive and consider whether additional enforcement steps — including possible legal action — are warranted.”

Across the pond, British government officials got a commitment from Google to improve the way in which it handles data, the U.K. information commissioner said in November, after months of inquiry. The agreement committed Google to improving training related to security awareness and data handling for all employees. To address Germany’s privacy rules, Google complied with that nation’s request to manually blur peoples’ houses on-demand, rather than relying on automated tools.

Other countries’ problems with Street View should give Israel pause, warned some privacy advocates.

“What data could be collected in Israel, and how might this harm Israel? Both public diplomacy and security considerations need to be considered. How might this data be used against Israel’s interests, particularly if it is stored in the U.S. and subject to U.S. government control rather than Israeli control? Keeping the data solely in Israel would be a significant development,” wrote Oboler. “Whatever issues the task force considers, they will not be an exhaustive list of the impact Street View could have on the lives of Israelis.

“Any permission to proceed with Google Street View should be coupled with both specific and general obligations on Google; for example, an obligation to collect and use data only in a manner consistent with the public interest, and an obligation to respect the rights of individuals. Keeping the data in Israel is the only way to ensure the Israeli courts can order enforcement.”

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In Israel Google Street View needs serious thought

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Source: Andre Oboler, In Israel Google Street View needs serious thought, Jerusalem Post Blogs, Feb 20, 2011

Google would like to launch Street View in Israel. The web based application adds an extra level of depth to Google Maps. People can zoom in and see what the street actually looks like to passersby. Google uses roving vehicles that drive down the street taking millions of digital photographs to collect the necessary data. Street view pieces these together along with controls that allow users to step down the street, or turn their view to different angles. Want the red house with the blue door? Google street view has it covered.

Street view also comes with draw backs in the areas of privacy and security. Cars, people, and security measures are all captured. Street view is like having a team of surveillance personal who can immediately send you photographs of any location. The real difference is that they pull these photographs from their archive rather than taking them live. Another difference is that under pressure from privacy regulators, Google added technology to blur faces, license plates and other details identifying people and companies who have been photographed.

Photography has posed problems for Israel before. Three years ago I wrote “Let’s not give away all out secrets on the web.” The issue then was Facebook use by IDF soldiers who were taking pictures on base and in the field. These photographs had the potential to compromise security, but I urged the IDF not to go overboard. Instead, I suggested the flow of information could be managed using existing structures. That approach is not available here as Google itself takes the images.

Street view could be very useful in public spaces, parks, museums, hotels and places of historical, cultural, and religious interest. It could significantly help tourism. A street view of the old city in particular could prove very popular. However, concerns about security in a small number of places, and about privacy in a far larger set of localities, suggest blanket permission would be unwise. Given its connection to Google maps, an edge to edge coverage is not needed. Google could easily provide street view only in front of designated locations of interest where permission has been specifically granted and if needed, where a risk assessment has already taken place.

Israel has specific needs, but the wider international concerns with street view should also be considered. These start with the ability of people to be easily removed. The original requirements were bordering on the comical, but they have improved. We still need to ask if they have improved enough, and whether Google can promise swift compliance with removal requests.

Gated communities, kibbutzim, and villages for new immigrants in particular should have a right to keep out the street view car, or to invite it in. The default should be exclusion until the local community give permission. This need is not unique to Israel, but it may have special implications. In the UK village of Broughton an angry crowd surrounded the street view car preventing its work. A spate of burglaries had residents concerned that appearing on Google Street View could attract further problem. (The article about this incident in The Sunday Times may of course have led to the same result, unless you assume thieves don’t read The Sunday Times).

Google street view cars have also been found collecting and storing data from open wireless networks in addition to taking pictures. This data was not just related to the location of open (non password protected) wireless networks, but also included payload data. In Ireland Google was forced to delete this data. What data could be collected in Israel, and how might this harm Israel? Both public diplomacy and security considerations need to be considered. How might this data be used against Israel’s interests, particularly if it is stored in the US and subject to US government control rather than Israeli control? Keeping the data solely in Israel would be a significant development.

The basic disconnect between our assumption of privacy and the concept of street view should also be considered. Segments of the online world have found the irony of stalking the Google Street View car irresistible. Bonus points apply if you can catch Google breaking the law. Of courseGoogle will also catch you catching Google breaking the law. Beneath the fun and games, discussion in the tech savvy online community are ripe with concerns about street view, Google’s potential use of the data, and the wider implications of online monitoring that is publically available. These ideas also need consideration, though culturally Israelis may be less concerned about privacy and surveillance, provided it is for a good cause and not simply a company’s profits. Street view may also have positive benefits for Israel’s security services (at the expense of civil liberties), the balance in Israel may be different to elsewhere in the world.

Privacy officials in Israel as well as Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom have already raised concerns about Google Street View and Google Buzz. They have criticized the roll out of technology before full consideration and protections have been put in place for the public. Yoram Hacohen, head of the Israeli Law, Information and Technology Authority signed the letter on behalf of Israel. When the new task force, headed by Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor meets, they may want to consultation with Mr Hacohen and see what role his authority could play in any future arrangements and what additional powers they may require. Some regulators overseas already have the ability to impose significant fines for privacy breaches.

Whatever issues the task force considers, they will not be an exhaustive list of the impact Street View could have on the lives of Israelis. Any permission to proceed with Google Street View should be coupled with both specific and general obligations on Google; for example, an obligation to collect and use data only in a manner consistent with the public interest, and an obligation to respect the rights of individuals. Keeping the data in Israel is the only way to ensure the Israeli courts can order enforcement. This may be a good first step.

Israel also has a responsibility to act in the Interests of its people and of the Jewish people more generally. In light of that, Israel may also request further unrelated guarantees from Google, such as an undertaking to cooperate more fully with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the fight against Antisemitism. The Online Antisemitism Working Group of the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism, of which I am co-chair, came up with many recommendations for service providers like Google. Now might be the time to open that dialogue with Google directly. Google has been far better than Facebook when it comes to respecting the rights of democratic states, but that doesn’t Israel can’t negotiate and ensure its issues are given a higher priority by the internet giant as part of any new expansion.

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