MKs okay extension of biometric database pilot until February 28

Facial recognition stays, but fingerprinting no longer mandatory.

December 28, 2016 01:58
1 minute read.
Reuven Rivlin

Dov Lipman and President Reuven Rivlin present a ID card to a new immigrant to Israel in July. (photo credit: SASSON TIRAM)

The Knesset on Tuesday extended the biometric database pilot program until February 28, in expectation that the program will be enacted, albeit with some significant changes.

Until now, getting a “smart” biometric card required giving the national biometric database a personal photo and a fingerprint.

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After February 28, entering one’s fingerprint into the database will be voluntary, a change called for by the Movement for Digital Rights.

Acting Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Uri Maklev echoed the Movement’s call, saying the final version of the law should also include an option for citizens who have already given their fingerprint to have it from the card.

Since the introduction of the pilot program, there has been a heated debate about privacy rights and whether a database exposes citizens to new kinds of identity and personal information theft in an age when cyber hacking seems unstoppable. The debate has led to multiple extensions of the pilot program, which has included a sizable minority of citizens.

Last month, Interior Minister Arye Deri signaled he would push for making joining the database, including with a fingerprint and photo, to be required for all future identity cards.

In one proposal for the final bill, those objecting would still have their fingerprint and photo on the new smart card, but the information would not be placed in the database. As a penalty of sorts, they would need to renew their ID cards every five years instead of every 10 years.

Digital Rights Movement director Nir Hirshman vowed to continue fighting the initiative in the Knesset and even to petition the High Court of Justice to block any kind of database from going forward.

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