Call for mandatory biometric ID cards raises concern

On Monday, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan submitted a report to the Knesset on the Biometric Database Management Authority's two-year trial period.

April 16, 2015 19:09
1 minute read.
israel passport

Israeli passport [Illustrative]. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Privacy rights advocates are concerned about Interior Minister Gilad Erdan's call to include digital biometric information in all ID cards and passports.

On Monday, Erdan submitted a report to the Knesset on the Biometric Database Management Authority's two-year trial period, during which 630,000 citizens signed up for biometric IDs voluntarily.

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The report argued that using biometric identification, which is difficult to replicate, would help prevent identity theft and solve crime. The database stores minimal data about people, their photos and two fingerprints, which the report said, offered a good balance for protecting privacy by leaving out even basic information such as a person's name, ID number, address, or other more sensitive information. The chips embedded in IDs also store the information written on the card.

"Smart biometric records that cannot be forged, alongside use of the biometric database, will allow a full package of security and protection of Israeli citizens' identities, and will balance between our duty to protect their security and the our duty to protect their privacy," Erdan said, adding that mandatory participation would be eased in gradually.

The Biometric IDs will also be able to verify identity on government websites.

But not everyone was convinced that the move struck the right balance.

In March, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira sent a letter to Erdan and Netanyahu criticizing the database and proposing a postponement of legislation to make it mandatory.

The Digital Rights Movement, an advocacy group, said that the database should not be approved, and a less invasive alternative was preferable. Specifically, it wanted to ensure that police would not have access to biometric data. It also argued that advancing such a significant proposal during an interim government was improper.

The report's examination of the alternative, the group alleged, was "not serious" and contained false information on its vulnerabilities.

"It's unfortunate that the Biometric Authority lies to ministries and produces reports that contradict objective information given by the Knesset Information and Research Center," the center said.

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