March 1, 2016 -
Israel’s interior minister Arye Dery is looking to extend the country’s biometric database pilot program for another nine months before making any decisions about the future of the program, according to a report in Haaretz.
The pilot was due to wrap up at the end of this month, after already being extended for nine months last June.
Dery said that he needs more time to examine the various opinions relating to the scope of the database and its contents.
“This is a significant matter, both to the state and Israeli society, inherent in the need to advance and innovate in all areas of life,” Dery said. “After studying the matter from all perspectives, it’s a complex, sensitive, and weighty issue that will impact on society for many years, which is why I’m asking for a few months to complete the required examination of all the positions and approaches presented to me so I can make an informed decision.”
The ministerial committee for biometric applications, various Knesset committees, and the entire Knesset need to approve any extention of the program.
Opponents of the database scheme have previously raised concerns about privacy and security of the system. In fact, last July, 74 Israeli cyber experts requested that the government immediately cease plans for the national biometric identification system. “We are calling on the prime minister, the interior minister and cabinet ministers to halt the use of biometric devices and to disable the central database before the Israeli public suffers irreparable damage to their privacy and security.”
Responding to the latest extension request, the Movement for Digital Rights stated, “Extending the biometric trial is a serious mistake. The biometric database is a danger to Israeli security, a danger to democracy and a danger to the privacy of every single one of us. The trial should be ended and the database erased now.”
According to the Haaretz report, “The biometric data law states that after the trial period is over, the interior minister is authorized to issue an order that either obligates all residents to join the biometric database; to extend the trial by up to two more years, or to apply the law in some gradual fashion. But this order can only be issued in consultation with the justice minister, and must get the approval of the finance minister, the ministerial committee for biometric applications, a joint Knesset committee representing the Law, Interior, and Science committees, and the full Knesset.”
If the minister does not issue the order within four years of the trial commencing (June 2017) then the biometric database will be erased.