Protestors Demand Interior Ministry Nix Biometric Database

View of the passport control machines which read biometric passports at Ben Gurion International Airport. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Opponents of a plan by the Interior Ministry to implement a biometric database and issue “smart” ID cards to all Israelis protested on Motzoei Shabbos, demanding that the legislation to establish the database be canceled. The protest was one of a series opponents of the database have conducted, and numerous lawsuits have been filed against it.

Zvi Dvir, a longtime activist against the database, said that “there are dedicated people who are willing to come out even in the cold of Yerushalayim to protest this. The database is trying to solve a problem that does not exist, and will actually make us less safe.”

The database will include, among other things, a digitized photo of the individual, their fingerprints, and other personal information, and after a lengthy pilot program that has been extended numerous times, Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri decided in December to implement it officially. “The biometric database is necessary to prevent identity theft, and it will be very secure,” he said. “I am convinced that the plan we developed provides an ideal balance between privacy protection and the obligation of the state to prevent identity theft and protect citizens.”

The “default” Israeli ID card to be offered to citizens from now on will be the biometric card, which will entail taking a photo and submitting fingerprints. Israelis who prefer not to participate must ask for an exception, which will be granted – but their identity cards will have to be renewed every few years, in order to ensure that they have not been compromised, the Interior Ministry said.

“This is a program that has been rejected by all other countries,” the Movement for Digital Rights said in a statement. “The project is opposed by many officials, including 74 top Israeli data security experts and the director of the National Council Against Cyber Terror. All of the personal details of Israelis will now be subject to data leaks, despite the efforts by the Interior Ministry that the database will be safe from hackers. The fact is that 70 percent of Israelis have refused to participate in the test program that has been ongoing for the past three years,” the group said.