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Police in Israel want greater freedom to use facial recognition

Police in Israel want greater freedom to use facial recognition
 

Israeli politicians are considering limits on how police use face biometrics to surveil the Middle Eastern nation, including its borders with Palestinian populations. Human rights advocates are condemning the proposed legislation.

Not a lot is known about the bill from this distance, and what little is known indicates a confusing and disjointed effort, possibly to win public support and give police as much latitude in using facial recognition as possible.

The draft reportedly is supported by the law enforcement community.

The main point appears to be that police would match faces captured by the national network against their own biometric databases, according to an article in Haaretz. They already use the network without a warrant to match faces with a national government-operated database.

Police would use their new system capability to prevent crime, enforce stay-away orders, document criminal patterns and the like. Probably a task portfolio similar to that which police exercise when using national face databases currently.

Protections in the legislation seem to be in the midst of being formulated. Haaretz quotes the bill saying that “the information collected in the special camera system will be used in a way that does no harm, to an extent that conforms to a person’s [need for] privacy.”

Reportedly, the bill would not regulate data storage and use. Any such measures would have to be added by relevant government ministers and approved by a committee of Israel’s Knesset, or national legislature.

Data collected could also be shunted to other security and military agencies, including the internal security service Shin Bet and the Military Intelligence Directorate. It is unclear at the moment if privacy and human rights policies used by law enforcement would transfer with the shared data.

Some opponents to the bill say it is a “blank check” for police to surveil with too little oversight or accountability.

A tri-polar environment is evolving globally, with the European Union putting a comparatively higher emphasis on individual privacy rights than does the United States, which offers no hint of a national or even regional rules regime for biometric surveillance. The third pole is China, which seemingly cannot throw enough internal investment at AI-based monitoring.

It is too early to tell which pole — if any — Israel will respond the most to.

Database becomes ‘biometric’ and illegal

A government database built by Israel’s Population, Immigration and Border Crossings Authority from images deemed too low-quality for biometric matching can now be used for facial recognition, due to advances in the technology, The Jerusalem Post reports.

The database does not meet the legal standards for biometric databases in the country, however, and the authority is seeking legal change to continue using it. A report from the Biometric Applications Commissioner identified several problems with the operations of the Population Authority and National Biometric Database Authority, which operates a parallel database.

The Commissioner criticized delays in transferring documents by the National Biometric Database Authority. The Database Authority, in response, said difficult tasks and opaque supervision are making its job more difficult. The Commissioner and the Database Authority are also at odds over what the former says is a calibration delay, and a failure to provide a required written workplan.

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