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Israel stands behind 'privacy invasion' traveler email checks

Posting in Technology

Could email account checks at the border impact Israel's tourism industry?

Last week, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein -- one of Israel's top legal advisors -- dismissed criticism of one of the more stringent security measures passengers have to endure before entering the Jewish state -- that of border officials gaining access to traveler email inboxes.

The practice, which affects those who are under suspicion of supporting pro-Palestinian activities in Israel and the occupied West Bank, is lawful, according to Weinstein.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) calls the checks a "drastic invasion of privacy not befitting a democracy." In rebuttal, the security chief says that officers have to ask the traveler to open their account so the private content of emails can be scrutinized. Although a passenger doesn't have to agree -- and this doesn't mean automatic refusal to enter the country -- not complying is taken into consideration.

How much consent you really have when faced with the implicit danger of refusal, however, is open to debate.

Security checks at the border are tough. On my last trip to the Jewish state, I endured the customary staring competition with border patrol, answered their repeated questions in a rapid-fire manner, and submitted to narrow-eyed suspicion as I underwent the third shoe-swabbing and bag search in the hunt for explosives before being carted off to yet-another interrogation.

All of this can be understood and tolerated by most reasonable travelers, but when you have a job in which corporate or confidential messages are protected in your inbox, this invasion of privacy could make you rethink your travel plans -- or that of your employees.

For the sake of the state's fragile tourism industry, let's hope that the practice does not become more widespread.

Read More: Reuters

Image credit: Flickr

— By on April 28, 2013, 9:14 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure