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Knesset Approves 'Biometric Law'

The law would create a biometric data base with fingerprints and facial photos of all citizens.
By Gil Ronen and Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 12/7/2009, 10:37 PM / Last Update: 12/7/2009, 11:02 PM

Flash 90

The Knesset plenum approved Monday evening the 'Biometric Law' in the final readings. Forty Knesset members voted in favor of the law, 11 against and three abstained. The purpose of the law is the creation of a biometric database that would hold the fingerprints and facial photos of all of the country's citizens. The data would be stored in the Interior Ministry computers.

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who led the opposition to the law, said after its approval that the vote was “a serious mistake which causes grave harm to freedom of the individual in Israel.”

"I hope that we do not pay too heavy a price for it,” Horowitz said. “In any case, it has been proven that an unrelenting public struggle by idealists can have influence and make a difference. The proof is that the law in its final wording is completely different from the original version.”

During the Knesset debate about the law, MK Horowitz stood at the podium and held up printouts of information from the Ministry of Interior's database which contained information about Knesset members and which reached the Internet. He said that he would not show the contents so as not to invade the MKs' privacy. “The leaked data which reached my hands prove how easy it is to break into government databases,” he said. “I hope that this will not be the fate of the biometric database.”

MK Dov Henin (Hadash) said that despite the government's statements that it would not force Israeli citizens to join the database, “in fact, whoever does not do so would be punished – he will not be able to leave the country's borders, since he would not receive a passport at the level required in developed countries.” The database is not truly a voluntary one, he said.

Faked fingerprints
On the same day that the Knesset approved the law, there news from Tokyo that appeared to show that this system, too, was not foolproof. Police in the Japanese capital said that they arrested a 27-year-old Chinese woman suspected of illegally entering the country after surgically altering her fingerprints to deceive a biometric recognition system operated by immigration officials.

Lin Rong, 27, had reportedly paid $15,000 to have the surgery in China.