Resolution on Internet Privacy

Whereas the Internet has been a great advance in human communication, and in particular has provided far-reaching resources and opportunities for Jewish study;

Whereas the Internet has also opened many opportunities for invasion of privacy, including the secret collection of personal data by commercial enterprises, government monitoring of social networks, and, in our own domain, the potential of congregations loaning or renting lists to raise funds; 

Whereas Jewish law has long been concerned with protecting individual privacy, as we learn in Tractate Bava Batra (2a). The law of hezek ri’ah, the damage caused by looking, forbids a person from creating a window that looks into a neighbor’s private domain, which by extension would prohibit unauthorized surveillance of any kind; and

Whereas this is the basis of the takkanah of Rabbenu Gershom (11th century), against opening and reading another person’s mail, which remains in effect in Jewish law.

Therefore be it resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly

  • Encourage congregations and all the organizations of our movement to assure the privacy of their membership data and communications;
  • Support legislation and practices that require data collectors to provide individuals with clear advance notice about the types of data they collect and how that data will be treated;
  • Support efforts to guarantee consumers’ control over their own data; and
  • In general, support efforts to protect people’s privacy as an expression of our ongoing concern for k’vod ha-b’riyot, human dignity.

Passed by the Rabbinical Assembly Plenum, March, 2011