The biometric identification database could be dangerous and cause a loss of privacy, MKs complained in a Knesset Science and Technology Committee meeting Monday.
The committee discussed how the trial period for the biometric database is progressing and whether the government is able to properly secure it.
Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirschenbaum reassured the lawmakers that the biometric database will not reveal personal details, because it is not connected to any of the dozens of other government databases, which she pointed out include even more sensitive information and a lower level of security.
"The biometric ID card allows us to prevent situations of identity theft," she explained. "Each year, 160,000 ID cards disappear, and we cannot know for sure how in many cases they are lost and in how many cases they are stolen.
Kirschenbaum added that since the pilot run began, half of citizens who lost their ID cards or passports asked for their new ones to include biometric information.
"It's still unclear what stood behind the decision to build a database that invades citizens' privacy – not just because there is a problem with security," MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), who initiated the meeting, said.
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) called the biometric database "dangerous and inappropriate."
"The trial period that started not long ago is a Trojan Horse that is meant to fully begin the project. We don't want to live in a 'Big Brother' society. We cannot allow the government to rule us in such an extreme way," Henin, who identifies himself as a communist, said.
Henin also warned that any database can be hacked and that the pilot run is not properly secured. He called for the trial period to be canceled.
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud Beytenu) said he is more afraid of misuse of the biometric database by the government than by criminals.
"We are fighting for our freedom as people, and the biometric database is a slippery slope that can lead to loss of that freedom," Feiglin stated.
MK Meir Sheetrit (Hatnua) who initiated and led the establishment of the biometric database when he was chairman of the Science and Technology Committee in the previous Knesset, said he finds it bizarre that people are trying to scare the public.
"If I was Interior Minister, I wouldn't be afraid to require all citizens to get a biometric ID card without having a trial period," Sheetrit said. "According to data I received from the police, there are 350,000 people in Israel with counterfeit identity cards. Those people commit thousands of crimes each year, so the invasion of privacy exists anyway. When I heard that, I couldn't fall asleep at night!"
Sheetrit also pointed out that most European countries have biometric databases and that the fingerprints of over 1,200,000 Israelis who have entered the US were recorded and automatically passed on to other countries.
In addition, Employment Services has a biometric database even though no law requires it, and no one has hacked it yet, the Hatnua MK stated.
Science and Technology Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (UTJ) concluded the meeting with a decision that, due to the fears over loss of privacy and safety, the committee will continue to monitor the database's trial period.
"Information revealed in the last week raises concern that the level of security for the database may not suffice," Gafni said. "In any case, the database's necessity should be checked in addition to its usefulness."
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