The Law Must Go On: Meir Sheetrit’s eagerness for the Biometric bill may be tainted

During the last few weeks I’ve been actively lobbying against the Biometric Database bill in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament). I participated in the hearing held in the Knesset’s Science Committee (participated by only one parliament member, Meir Sheetrit, the bill’s drafter) and tried to talk sense to the Ministry of Interior and the Parliament Member. However, it seems that if no drastic steps will be made, Israel will pass the biometric database bill next Monday.

A central biometric database, allowing access to the police and “other” authorities, including not only fingerprints but also facial scans (not just hashes) will allow CCTV monitoring and de-anonymization of most Israelies.

Should the database, somewhat leak, like Israel’s national census, it would be a target for criminals, terrorists and corporations, who now collect their own databases. The database itself may be a great danger to personal freedom, as the Israeli Public Defender states: “This kind of database, which would include identifying information about the general population, is unprecedented both in its existence and in its ramifications… No democracy has such a database, with the sole exception of Hong Kong.”

However, a recent finding by an Israeli Blogger and Lawyer, Effi Fuks, possibly links between the much too eager parliament member, Sheetrit and On Track Innovation (OTI), a company participating in  the Tender. According to Fuks’ findings, OTI has already won a tenderless project to operate public transportation smart-cards, when Sheetrit was the minister of transportation (and also promote his wife’s PR firm clients in teners) after his predecessor issued a tender for smart-cards. This alone would not suffice as a thread for corruption, however, OTI’s former VP of R&D, Sivan Yechieli, is a member of Sheetrit’s Party, Kadima, and now acts as the Mayor of Kfar Vradim.

Does that suffice? Sheetrit’s eagerness, banning photography and refusal for interviews all construct one logic: There must be something inherently wrong with the bill. Had Sheetrit had any previous connection to OTI, he must have stated so. Also, as Yechieli was elected as a mayor when Sheetrit was the minister of Interior, it is quite difficult not to have any knowledge about his previous employement and business. OTI spoke after the discussion ended, and only after it ended, and did not participate, unlike other participants, in the actual discussion, which seemed strange.

Yesterday, in the last discussion, after it was finalised that all authorities (including tax, immigration, health etcetera) will receive access to the photodatabase (a new non-biometric database of all citizen photos) I asked whether there’s a need for both fingerprints and photos, as one suffices in reaching the law’s purpose of identifying all Israelies and preventing false identities. The ministry of interior answered positively, but Sheetrit explained that The Law Must Go On.

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