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Draft bill allows Israeli police access to face biometrics from public CCTV

Draft bill allows Israeli police access to face biometrics from public CCTV

Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation cleared a biometric surveillance bill on Sunday that will enable security services to access information from CCTV and use facial recognition without a warrant, Haaretz reports.

The bill would also provide a legal basis for the currently-deployed ‘Eagle Eye’ system, which is already used to track vehicular movement across the country (and which will be further regulated by the new bill).

More specifically, the system established by the new bill would be capable of “focusing on objects or various biometric characteristics, taking a picture of them and comparing them with pictures found in the database, thus enabling identification of the object or the photographed person, if their already-identified image is in the database,” Haaretz quotes the bill text as saying.

The draft legislation also suggests various uses for the data obtained, including crime detection and prevention, locating missing persons, and enforcement of restraining orders.

Privacy advocates and the Justice Ministry’s Privacy Protection Authority have criticized the move, with the Israeli Association for Civil Rights issuing a statement in response to the newly-drafted legislation.

“The draft bill not only allows the police to receive alerts about wanted persons but also to collect and store personal information about innocent citizens, without a court order and without supervision,” wrote the organization.

“The bill endangers the freedom of citizens and their right not to be surveilled.”

Within the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, only Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata was against the new bill.

“When the police can place biometric cameras in every neighborhood with the wave of a finger, it leads to abuse and excessive enforcement of particular populations,” she said.

The minister also warned against demographic biases commonly associated with facial recognition systems.

Tamano-Shata’s views were countered by Justice Minister Gideon Saar who said that “When it comes to reining in terror, I take the invasion of privacy with a grain of salt. It’s a public space.”

The bill comes months after Israel’s Interior Ministry asked the Knesset for an extension of an emergency order to continue collecting fingerprints until 2025 for its national biometric ID database.

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