From some time in 2011 until September 2014, a large Israeli telecom provider, Cellcom (“Cellcom”) sold cellular phone location data of its cellular service subscribers (each a “User” and collectively the “Users”) to a company called Trendit (“Trendit”). Cellcom was providing Trendit with location data, on a User by User basis, at 5 minute intervals. Cellcom did not provide Trendit with the name or cell-phone number of the Users, and therefore, in its opinion, it was providing Trendit with anonymous data.
The plaintiff under the class action suit (the “Plaintiff”) argued that continuous tracking of location data enables the profiling of the Users and that it is possible, with reasonable effort, to ascertain the specific identify of the Users despite the “anonymization"1 . An independent legal expert was appointed by the Court as an "Examiner" (the “Examiner”), agreed that the Plaintiff’s position that it was possible to identify the users was not unfounded and would probably persuade the Court. The Examiner thought it likely that, amongst others, the Court would find that Users’ privacy had been violated under several sections of the Israeli Privacy Protection Law, 5741-1981, as amended and amongst others, that Cellcom had indeed breached its obligation of confidentiality to its Users.
It was clarified that explicit consent was required for any profiling activities, noting that from location data a lot could be inferred, such as habits, preferences and this is even without cross matching with additional information. Furthermore, it was determined by the Court that explicit consent is required to use personal information for a purpose other than that for which it is provided.
The compensation to each member of the class, was not large, but the cost to Cellcom is significant and could reach NIS 21 million (approx. 6 million USD) for a transaction that allegedly generated to Cellcom for the grand total of US$ 200,000.
1According to the settlement agreement, Trendit provided similar services to customers in Europe, North America and Australia.
Article provided by: Beverly Zabow (BL&Z Law Offices and Notaries, Israel)
Dr. Tobias Höllwarth (Managing Director INPLP)