Israel transitions to Biometric passports and IDs

Will this protect or infringe citizen's rights?

June 1, 2017 20:14
1 minute read.
Israeli passport

Israeli passport [Illustrative]. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority (PIA) began issuing only biometric passports and identity cards on Thursday after a years-long tug-ofwar between biometric proponents and privacy advocates.

Non-biometric passports and IDs will remain valid until their expiration date.

Any Israeli renewing or applying for a passport or ID card will now need to be photographed for a database, although applicants can choose whether to permit the storage of scanned fingerprints.

Those who opt for fingerprint storage will receive documents that are valid for 10 years, while documents without fingerprints will be valid for only five years.

Minors under age 16 will not be fingerprinted and are eligible only for documents that are valid for five years.

The information is stored in a chip on the new passport and ID cards.

Police and security authorities will have access to the database under certain conditions.

Privacy advocates view a biometric database as susceptible to hacking and an infringement on citizens’ private information. The purpose of the database, according to Israeli authorities, is to prevent identity theft and fraud.

A pilot program for the databases established in 2013 required applicants to provide fingerprints. After backlash from civil rights groups, fingerprints were made optional in the Biometric Database Law passed in February.

The law also includes an option to delete fingerprint data for anyone who already gave permission in the pilot program to store the data.

The Digital Rights Movement (DRM), a civil rights organization opposed to the database, has petitioned the High Court of Justice to declare the law unconstitutional.

In March, DRM lawyer Yonatan Klinger called the law a threat to citizens’ rights.

“The rule in our democracy until now has been very simple: If you did not break a law, you do not go on the suspects’ list,” Klinger said.

“But from this moment... everyone turns into a suspect... and this must be annulled.”

Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.

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