An employee of the Israeli Social Affairs Ministry has been arrested on suspicion of copying the personal details of nine million citizens listed in the population registry, according to the Justice Ministry.
The Justice Ministry's Law, Information and Technology Authority (LITA) announced on Monday that they had arrested six suspects in connection with the theft in 2006, and subsequent distribution, of the personal details from the registry, which included the names and details of minors and deceased citizens, according to Israeli news reports.
LITA said the employee stole the information, which included names, identification numbers, addresses, birth dates and relationships, and kept a copy of it at his home. After the man had been let go from his job, he gave a copy of the stolen data to a business associate, who passed it on to other people, who also passed it on, until it reached someone who created a software program called Agron 2006 with the information.
The Agron 2006 program allowed users to query the information of any of the listed citizens and was widely available to the public on file-sharing websites. According to the Justice Ministry, a website was even created to explain how to use the program and encourage others to distribute the information.
LITA investigations' department chief attorney Mili Bach said that "the online availability of the Population Registry and the Agron program was, for years, a blatant testimony to the intolerable gap that exists in Israel between the daily reality and the state law", according to Ynetnews, the English-language sister-site of Ynet, a popular Israeli news website.
However, the suspects in the case also told Ynetnews that the Agron program was used by everyone, including legal firms and businesses.
"What's so secretive here? This information can be found in the Yellow Pages and a thousand other places," one of the suspects told the news site.
"This is a very popular database. I noticed that a lot of people had it, so it didn’t occur to me that having a copy was prohibited," another suspect said. "I thought it was a basic names and addresses database. I didn't think it had sensitive or secret information."
Attorney Gil Dahoah, representing one of the suspects, also said that the population registry had been available to anyone for years and the state had not barred its use until now. ®