The Communication Information bill passed its second and third readings in the Knesset on Monday. The motion was carried with a majority of 35 voting for and 5 voting against.
The bill amends the criminal law and is expected to grant the police the authority to more effectively fight crime, by allowing them access to technical communication information including previously held privileged, such as IP addresses, cell phone location and SIM card details.
The one reservation included in the bill pertains to the immunity of people with so-called "sensitive professions", meaning lawyers, doctors, religious leaders and others.
The new law defines three manners in which the police may access privileged information: Using a court order; in emergency situations, a police officer with the rank of chief superintendent or higher may authorize access; or through an information database set to be transferred to the police.
Most of the controversy surrounding the proposed law focused on the last two methods: The information database and the authorization of a police chief superintendent.
The first method, which is intended to be used is most situations, is supposed to make the police establish "convincing necessity" in order to request a court order granting access to technical communications information.
The Police are required to supply the court with a list of documents proving reasonable suspicion, cause or need to "spy on" the individual in question. If the person is defined as having a sensitive profession, the threshold of proof is even higher.
The second manner suggested allows police officers, with the rank of chief superintendent or higher, the ability to access the information in "life and death" emergency situations.
The final and most controversial way is to access a database that will hold communications information obtained from communications companies that currently have the information. This includes the International Mobile Equipment Identity number as well as other SIM card details which will allow the authorities to investigate cell phone activity.
MK Zahava Gal-On, chairwoman of Meretz, called on her colleagues not to support the measure saying that the bill is "invasive, sweeping and does not convey the appropriate balance between the necessities of the (fighting crime) and disproportional damage to citizens' rights."
MK Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee which initiated the bill, explained that "this is a proportional law that enables the police to carry out the job they are tasked with, and us – members of Knesset to supervise them – and the citizens of Israel to be calm and know that they are being watched over (and protected from) every enemy and foe."
Niv Lillian, Amnon Meranda and Ehud Keinan contributed to this report