Sunday, November 01, 2020

Nearly 20 percent of Palestinian youth subjected to "Facebook arrests"

By The Palestine Monitor - March 05, 2017
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Administrative detention]

Ramallah - In April 2016, Israeli intelligence claimed to have prevented a young woman from Jenin from carrying out a knife attack. She had been thinking about the attack for some time already but did not tell anyone. The border between what she'd hope to do, what she had to fantasized to achieve, and what she would really have done is very blurry. How much of her project was doable? How far had she been thinking about logistics? Basically: how serious and real was the threat? If it was just a thought rather than an actual project, let alone a planned operation…

To define the border between thought and actual threat, Israeli intelligence uses –among other tools- online surveillance. By crossing individual data with online activity, processing it through algorithms, the Israeli authorities gather an incredible amount of personal information. But this is also used to justify preventive action such as administrative detention and arrests… In the name of fighting against potential threat. Virtual even.
So, how big is the surveillance? In the West Bank for instance, according to various media reports, 2 million out of 2.9 million people living in the West Bank are online monitored.
In January, Haifa-based “7amleh”, also known as the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement seemed to point out to a specific stigmatization of youth.
It released the results of a survey on Palestinian youth’s digital security in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and for Palestinian citizens of Israel. Polled Palestinians were between the ages of 15 and 25.
A press release by 7amleh explains the main finding: “results indicate that 19% of Palestinian youth were intercepted by the authorities; i.e. arrested, or subjected to investigation by the Israeli authorities or the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza for expressing their opinion”.
Online tracking is very often poorly framed by the law – falling in a grey zone that some human rights organization find dangerous, while governments insist on state security.
Last year, the case of Palestinian citizen of Israel Dareen Tatour grabbed international attention when she was jailed for a poem she had posted to YouTube.
That study, conducted in November and published in January, convinced Nadim Nashif, Director of 7amleh, to continue working on improving digital security self-protection for Palestinians. While 94% of the interviewees had Internet access in their residence, and 97% of them used it for social media purposes (Facebook, Whatsapp, and YouTube are the most commonly used); 33% do not change their passwords at all and only 13% do it every 6 months. As for activating the privacy settings on Facebook and other social networks, 5% said they do activate them, while 10% do not even know about them. 40.4% did not know about private browsing (masking your identity, using a VPN,…). Lastly, on online security, 7amleh study says that “when they were asked about encryption, only 13% of the interviewees said they used it, compared to 51% of those who did not, and about 35% did not know about it”.
Israel's infamous Unit 8200 is one of the most highly regarded cyber intelligence agencies in the world. The country is also famous for developing, together with the United States, a computer superbug aiming at destabilizing the Iranian nuclear program.
In order to help young people to gain better protection of their personal data online, 7amleh has launched a digital security and protection awareness campaign that is available on the center’s website.

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