The Wiretapping Law, 1979, defined the following concepts:
"Eavesdropping " – Using a device to listen in on another person’s conversation or to record or copy another person's conversation;
"Wiretapping” – listening in on a conversation without the consent of any of the participants;
The punishment for a person that eavesdrops illegally and without lawful permit is five years imprisonment.
Additionally - "The installer of a device for the purpose of illegal wiretapping or to allow its use for the said purpose is liable to five years imprisonment.
In addition, "one who unlawfully uses the information or contents of a conversation obtained by wiretapping (whether lawfully or illegally) or that knowingly discloses such information or contents of said conversation to a person unauthorized to receive it, is liable to five years imprisonment.
Moreover, the law states: "Things recorded by way of wiretapping contrary to the provisions within the law, and with the exception of exceptional matters where the court approves to accept the recording, cannot be used as evidence in a court of law."
Simply put - wiretapping is listening to a private conversation that took place where the expectation of being listen to was unreasonable, when one party does not know that the other party is listening to them and this constitutes a prohibited invasion of a person's privacy. Wiretapping is permitted provided that it is recorded by a person participating in the conversation or where the parties conducting the conversation are aware of that person's existence.
The police are currently in the headlines over their use of Pegasus or other similar software to wiretap civilians. The public debate has stirred up all kinds of reactions from cries of outrage to cries of support.
This issue is nothing new. It was discussed in 1979 in the Knesset when the law on wiretapping passed both the second and third readings.
The then chairman of the Constitution Committee, MK David Glass summed up the problem with the law stating the following:
"It is not by chance that we have had so much controversy at the Knesset over the law regarding the problem of wiretapping as we must strive to, on the one hand, protect an individual's right to privacy and not turn into a regime where George Orwell's 1984 vision becomes a horrific reality. On the other hand, we must allow for such recordings when they are used to defend the vital interests of the state in two areas, security and crime prevention. "
The courts look severely on the use of wiretapping and insist that wiretapping be carried out in accordance with the law. However, in some cases, they facilitate the interpretation of the law. This was set as a precedent ruling made in the Haifa Magistrate's Court on August 31, 2021 regarding recording kindergartens: "If parents put a recording device inside an institution and on the recording, you can overhear things said about their child - it will not be considered wiretapping. In addition, it is determined that recordings will also be admissible in cases where parents record members of staff at the kindergarten speaking to their child as the child is considered part of the conversation and it is not wiretapping."
In conclusion: In cases where the courts are requested to consent to the use of wiretapping, whether it be for security or criminal purposes, the petitioner must be fully supervised in order to assure that the wiretapping is carried out in accordance with the law.
Unfortunately, when the Knesset does not function properly, as it has not done over the last couple of years, and when the legislator does not supervise the execution of these laws we find ourselves in a situation where we the citizens depend on the grace of those in power that can simply decide who to listen in on without any fear of reprisal from the Knesset.