Biometric Database: A call for action

Last Thursday marked the final approval of the biometric database regulations and the biometric database order in Israel; the regulations and order were approved by a special panel participated solely by Meir Sheetrit and Abraham Michaeli, where Sheetrit was the initial entrepreneur of the Biometric Database in his position as minister of interior. This marks the end of a two year process that began two years ago when The Knesset approved the biometric bill. The discussions prior to the approval were on who shall be granted access to the citizen’s biometric database (but not to whether it’s really needed). According to the biometric law, any citizen or resident that shall join the database shall have to provide the ministry of interior his fingerprints and a photograph of his face which will be stored in a central database which may be accessible to the ministry of interior, the police and other security services.

Following the public protest, made mostly in the internet, it was decided that the database shall commence with a pilot program which shall be no longer than four years. during this term, which shall commence this November, the necessity   of the database shall be examined (however, recent statements show that the pilot is not actually a pilot). The only way you can help during this pilot is to refuse to provide the government with your fingerprint.

On the actual question why is the biometric database dangerous to you and your country there are numerous answers which were already raised by experts and discussed over and over again. Briefly, the stated purpose of the database is to prevent forgery of identity cards (and identities). However, it order to prevent identity theft and ID forgery there is no actual need for a biometric database and several other methods already exist, including electronic identification cards. However, as we learned from a recently leaked document, the only reason that a biometric database is required was to pass information to the police about the citizens of Israel. We learned so when the police rejected a safer mean of storing biometric information detailed by Prof. Adi Shamir (the S in RSA), claiming that it cannot utilize the database if made in the Shamir method. And yes, the same police that uses extreme violence on protesters from right and left, against Arabas and against social activists.

Another reason to object to biometric identification and the biometric database is that once your biometrics is your unique identifier, then anyone with access to this information could possibly steal your identity. And of course I need not remind you that you leave your fingerprints on any cup of coffee you drink, right?

So, once we passed the “why we detest a biometric database in two paragraphs or less” the question that comes to mind is how you, as citizens, could protest against it. First, you have to understand that the state is going to try as hard as it can to persuade you to provide it with your fingerprints; the bureaucrats and clerks in the ministry of interior are obliged, by the national order, to offer you to join the pilot. Yes, in the same way that your grocery store clerk is obliged to offer you to join their value club, so does the clerk in the ministry of interior have to offer you to join the experiment.

However, one of the criteria set in the pilot is how many people did not join the database out of the entire population; these people have to be you. Beginning November first it is your civil duty to go to the ministry of interior’s offices and have new, non-biometric, cards, so that your refusal to enter the pilot will be counted and in two years time, when the pilot shall be examined, the parliament shall find out that no one wants it.

If you will not do so, then you will find yourselves in two years with a biometric database, that like any other database held in Israel, makes us forfeit our privacy.

[Originally published in 972Mag]

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