Teudat Zehut, Israeli ID card 370.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
After years of public controversy, the Interior Ministry is planning to run a
pilot of the biometric database in Rishon Lezion on Monday afternoon, the
ministry announced Sunday.
The pilot is set to take place from 12:30 p.m.
to 2:30 p.m. at the Interior Ministry building in Rishon Lezion, where
citizens coming to renew or receive a new identification card will have the
option of signing up for a new biometric version or the traditional blue
Civil rights groups and data security campaigners
have long criticized the database, saying that it would provide an unprecedented
platform for running surveillance on private citizens, as well as a threat of
security breaches and data leaks.
Former Likud MK Michael Eitan said in
response to the news that the biometric pilot is “a battle for the image of the
State of Israel. Will we be a free country which protects the rights of its
citizens, an enlightened state, or one that leads the world in surveillance of
its own citizens?” In July 2012, the High Court of Justice held a hearing during
which the Interior Ministry agreed to review the biometric cards proposal,
following a petition by civil rights groups and data security
Petitioners, including the Association for Civil Rights in
Israel (ACRI) and the Movement for Digital Rights, said the plan had
intentionally left out alternatives to the database, adding that the ministry
should examine if there are other feasible options that would not be subject to
the same threats of data leaks or information theft.
The Knesset first
approved the biometric database program in 2009, and in June 2011 the Knesset
Science and Technology Committee approved the ordinances needed to establish the
Responding to the announcement, ACRI said that it “objects to
the biometric database because it is not a necessary aspect of a ‘smart’
identification system – even one that includes biometric data – but rather a
repository of citizens’ physiological data, vulnerable to both government abuse
and outside infiltration [as recent developments have shown].”
spokesman added that “in fact the Interior Ministry has delayed the issuance of
smart IDs since 2007 in order to combine the process with the creation of a
While ACRI took some credit for having pushed the
state to make improvements over the years from a security perspective, it said
the program still “strikes a serious blow to citizens’ privacy and completely
undermines the balance of power between the state and its citizens.”
said that despite being called “voluntary,” the program “actually pressures
citizens by only issuing smart ID cards to those who opt into the biometric