Smart Biometric Makes Not-Smart Mistake


The much-touted smart documents of Israel’s new biometric database may not be so smart, after all.

In a mistake that no competent clerk would make, a photo of one Israeli citizen appeared on two different passports.

A photograph of Ohad Ozeri, age 10, turned up on both his own passport and that of his younger brother Amitai, age 5, Haaretz reported.

The incident is an embarrassment to proponents of the biometric database, which have being marketed aggressively as the solution to forgery.

What happened to the Ozeris is, of course, not supposed to happen in the new system.

People who receive smart ID cards and passports are entered into the biometric database, which includes a photograph of their faces and scans of the prints of both index fingers. Children under 12 are photographed only and do not give their fingerprints.

The Population Registry maintains that the system eliminates all “suspicion of duplicate identity or impersonation” by comparing the applicant’s biometric data with that of everyone else already in the database.

Opponents of the database seized on the incident to prove they were right in their opposition.

“The fact that the Interior Ministry issued two passports with the same photograph, and entered the same person into the biometric database under two different identities, shows that the public was sold a bill of goods,” said attorney Jonathan Klinger, the legal adviser of Israel’s Digital Rights Movement.

“The biometric database has no ability to prevent forgery or impersonation. It cannot spot an error made by an employee or deliberate deception, nor can it solve the problem it was supposedly created to fix.”

A Population Registry spokesperson responded, “We received the details of the incident, and the subject will be looked into.”

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