Israeli government’s call for mandatory biometric ID system met with backlash

Israeli interior minister Aryeh Deri has called for all Israeli citizens to obtain a mandatory biometric identity card, with their personal information stored on a national digital database, according to a report by The Times of Israel.

As detailed in a memorandum, in the next two weeks citizens will be permitted to comment on the new ID system.

Following this period, the bill will go to a ministerial committee, and if approved, it will be put to a vote in the Knesset.

“The biometric database is crucial to prevent identity theft of Israeli citizens, and it is protected and secured at the highest level,” Deri said.

The biometric card will store the cardholder’s data — their personal information, fingerprints, photo and facial profile — on an embedded chip, with all information also stored in a secured database.

The database is designed to prevent identity theft and to ensure that terrorists are unable to pose as an Israeli and gain access to areas of high population to execute attacks.

The biometric card and database were initially proposed in 2009 by then-interior minister Meir Sheetrit.

The system was approved on the condition of conducting a two-year pilot phase, which began in 2013 but was eventually extended.

In June 2015, a petition signed by 74 academics at Israel’s universities voiced concerns that the database could be a “security threat” that’s susceptible to hacking and data leakage.

They pleaded with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Knesset to cancel the plan “before Israeli citizens and the country’s security are badly damaged.”

The Movement for Digital Rights are currently petitioning the High Court against the move, stating that “this a program that has been rejected by all other countries,” according to a report by Hamodia.

“The project is opposed by many officials, including 74 top Israeli data security experts and the director of the National Council Against Cyber Terror,” Movement for Digital Rights said in the statement. “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 biometric cards are already available at local Interior Ministry offices throughout Israel, with approximately 1.2 million citizens having already volunteered for the program.

Previously reported, the Israeli government said last month that its experimental biometric database will be deleted if the legislation procedures aren’t completed by June 30, 2017.

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