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Israeli cyber experts call on government to cancel planned biometric ID system


Seventy four Israeli cyber experts have requested Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, cabinet ministers and Knesset members to immediately cease plans for the national biometric identification system, according to a report by The Jerusalem Post.

Previously reported, Israel Interior Minister Silvan Shalom announced in late June he is extending the biometric database pilot program for identity cards for a nine month period.

The letter has been signed by some of the country’s top scientists, including Prof. Jacob Ziv, an Israel Prize laureate and former head of National Academy of Sciences; Prof. David Harel, an Israel Prize laureate and EMET Prize laureate; Prof. Noga Alon, an Israel Prize laureate and Israel Security Award winner; Prof. Eli Biham, a former dean at the Technion Computer Science Department and founder of the cyber center; and Godel Prize laureate Prof. Moni Naor. In addition, the letter was signed by encryption experts Prof. Amir Herzberg, Prof. Danny Dolev, Yuval Ishai and Prof. Yehuda Lindell.

In the letter, the cyber experts call to attention the many “risks involved in making the Interior Ministry’s experimental pilot biometric identification system compulsory for all residents of the State of Israel,” explaining how the planned database “will intrude on the privacy and human dignity of this country’s citizens and may even endanger the country’s security.”

The letter goes on to state that while “preventing fake IDs is an important goal,” it is one that can be “achieved by using the appropriate technological means inside the ID cards.

The scientists explain that these technologies are “quicker to install, cheaper, safer and less invasive than biometric devices and central databases, which are exposed to hacking, leaking or misuse.”

“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,” the scientists write in the letter.

Jonathan Klinger, a lawyer for the Israeli Digital Rights Movement, also echoed the scientists’ remarks.

“Extending the pilot phase of the biometric identification system is tantamount to fraud. It is a crude attempt to obscure and hide the clear findings of the failed experiment, especially in light of the state comptroller’s report, which was recently published,” said Klinger. “The government must publicize the results from the pilot and deal with them no matter how difficult this situation is.

“If there is a need to make decisions based on this information, then we must do so now, instead of adding even more citizens to the biometric database. We are calling on every Knesset member to take part in this effort to halt the biometric pilot, be it in the relevant Knesset committee or in the plenum, which is scheduled to discuss the issue.”

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