The High Court of Justice on Wednesday ordered the state to clarify several issues in any future advertising for its new biometric database, implying that its previous advertisements were misleading.
The court ordered the state to add three components to any future advertisements – that the program was only a pilot, that no one was required to join it and that not joining it would not cause the loss of any rights.
Despite the overall ruling against the state, the court denied the petition of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel and several academics and privacy rights advocates to completely prevent any advertising, let alone abolish the database; critics would prefer it not exist at all.
The program, which supporters say provides certain smart-card efficiency advantages, including avoiding stolen identity cards, and detractors say invades privacy, was announced in July 2013.
The petition against the database and its advertising was filed in October following a publicity campaign to get people to join the database.
A couple of weeks ago, the state announced that 192,000 people had joined the database.
Deputy Supreme Court President Miriam Naor opened the hearing, urging the sides to compromise on less controversial advertising language.
She added her own reservations about the state’s advertising campaign, saying, “When I personally watched the television advertisement, I said to myself, why doesn’t it say that it is a pilot program, and that there is no obligation” to join? Though Naor urged the sides to reach a compromise language, when the petitioners would not back down because of additional criticisms of the database and its advertising, the court eventually ordered the three components as clarifications to the public.
One of the petitioners, Prof. Karin Nahon, responded to the decision, saying, “The court proved that it will not buy the misrepresentations of the Interior Ministry in everything regarding the biometric database.”
She added, “A reasonable person who goes to the population registrar” should “not be expected to recognize all of the dangers and failings of the pilot.”
Critics have said that those who join may not realize how their fingerprints and pictures of their faces can be misused.
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