Israel to start collecting fingerprints from all citizens

The new biometric database, approved last Thursday, is a threat to the privacy and freedom of every Israeli. It is our duty to refuse it

By Atty. Jonathan J. Klinger

Last Thursday marked the final approval of the biometric database regulations and the biometric database order in Israel; the regulations and order were approved by a special Knesset panel participated solely by MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) and Abraham Michaeli (Shas), where Sheetrit was the initial entrepreneur of the Biometric Database in his position as minister of interior.

This marks the end of a process that began two years ago when The Knesset approved the biometric bill. The discussions prior to the approval were on who shall be granted access to the citizen’s biometric database (but not to whether it’s really needed). According to the biometric law, any citizen or resident that joins the database will have to provide the ministry of interior his fingerprints and a photograph of his face which will be stored in a central database which may be accessible to the ministry of interior, the police and other security services.

Following public protest (heard mostly on the internet) it was decided that the database shall commence with a pilot program which will take no longer than four years. During this term, which commences this November, the necessity of the database will be evaluated (however, recent statements show that the pilot is not actually a pilot). Once the pilot program ends, every citizen who refuses biometric identification is subject to a prison term of up to a year.

The only way to stop the forming of the database is to refuse to provide the government with fingerprint during the pilot period.

On the question of why the biometric database is dangerous to every Israeli there are numerous answers which were already raised by experts and discussed over and over again. Briefly, the stated purpose of the database is to prevent forgery of identity cards, and forged identities. However, in order to prevent identity theft and ID forgery there is no actual need for a biometric database. Several other methods for the protection of citizen’s identity already exist, including electronic identification cards.

As we learned from a recently leaked document, the only reason that a biometric database is required was to pass information to the police about the citizens of Israel. This is the reason the police rejected a safer mean of storing biometric information detailed by Prof. Adi Shamir, claiming that it won’t be able to use such database. The same police that uses violence on protesters from the right and left, who crush political dissent by Arabs and social activists, now asks for unprecedented authority over Israeli citizens.

Another reason to object to biometric identification and the biometric database is that once one’s biometrics become his or her unique identifier, then anyone with access to this information could possibly steal your identity. And of course I need not remind you that you leave your fingerprints on any cup of coffee you drink, right?

The question that comes to mind is how we, as citizens, could protest against the biometric identification and the biometric database. The state is going to try as hard as it can to persuade us to provide it with our fingerprints; the bureaucrats and clerks in the ministry of interior are obliged, by the national order, to offer every Israeli the option of joining the pilot. Yes, in the same way that your grocery store clerk is obliged to offer you to join their value club, so does the clerk in the ministry of interior have to offer you to join the experiment.

However, one of the criteria by which the pilot will be judged is the number of people that opted not to join the database, as a percentage of the entire population. These people must be us.

Beginning November 1st, it is our civil duty to go to the ministry of interior’s offices and get new, non-biometric cards, so that our refusal to enter into the pilot will be counted, and in two years time, when the pilot is examined, the parliament will find out that no one wants this database.

If we fail to do so, we will find ourselves in two years with a mandatory biometric database, that like any other database held in Israel, makes our privacy forfeit.

Jonathan J. Klinger is an Israeli cyberlaw attorney who was one of the activists against the biometric database. Atty. Klinger is legal advisor for +972 magazine.


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