Biometric database in action
Biometric database in actionFlash 90

The Interior Ministry has announced that Israel’s biometric database program will officially begin in two weeks.

That’s when the government will start building a biometric database of all Israeli citizens by upgrading the folded blue plastic ID cards (“teudat zehut”) and other non-citizen Ids with fingerprints and facial recognition data.

Not everyone is happy about this plan.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) expressed outrage in a statement by spokesman Marc Grey, who warned, “The police could use this information in all kinds of ways to avoid their constitutional responsibilities of due process – and then you have all the issues of security [breaches] by external entities.”

The Biometric Database Law mandating collection of fingerprints and facial contours from all Israeli residents – and integrated on to domestic ID cards and national passports -- was actually passed by the Knesset in December 2009. The same law mandated creation of a biometric government database of that information, to be used for management of access control, identification of individuals and to assist in locating individuals suspected of criminal activity by the law enforcement officials.

The first phase, inclusion of the data in the central database, was to be voluntary.

A biometric identity system has been in place at domestic passport control at Ben Gurion International Airport for more than five years.

The law was passed in part to prevent identity theft and the loss, theft and destruction of the flimsy blue ID cards issued by the Interior Ministry, which had spiraled out of control in the decade prior to 2007. More than half of those requesting new documents had a criminal background, it was later discovered.