Public Defender's Office joins fight against biometric database - Israel News, Ynetnews
 
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Public Defender's Office joins fight against biometric database

Controversial proposal to create biometric database opposed by yet another State body, as Public Defender's Office warns move may carry unprecedented ramifications

Tova Tzimuki
Published: 07.23.09, 23:12 / Israel News

The Public Defender's Office has joined the fight against the government's intention to set up a biometric database in Israel, Ynet learned Thursday.

 

The biometric database bill passed its first Knesset reading in October, with 18 Knesset members voting in favor and only MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) voting against.

 

The bill, suggested by then-Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, called for instating the database, and with it the use of smart IDs and passports, in order to prevent forgery of state documents.

 

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The proposal encountered extensive opposition from day one, with those protesting it saying it would infringe on citizens' basic right to privacy, as well as be at constant risk from hackers.

 

The Public Defender's Office also believes that forming a biometric database would prove detrimental to the individual rights. In a letter sent to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation the office stated that, "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."

 

The Public Defender's Office further claimed that the existence of the database would infringe on the citizens' constitutional right to privacy and may enable surveillance of individuals through cross-referencing.

 

The letter also underscores the risk of misusing the information, be it through a potential leak or via illegal trade.

 

Minister Michael Eitan (Likud), who adamantly opposes the bill, said that if the database was ever compromised "it would cause irrevocable damage… This is unnecessary, especially since there are other alternatives, which are safer and less expensive."

 

Eitan suggested two separate databases be formed: The first, for the Interior Ministry, to be comprised of a coded list of names; and the second, for the Justice Ministry, to be comprised of coded biometric data, devoid of any identifying information.

 

The separation would prevent any damage should information leak from one of the databases, he said, adding that any cross-referencing procedures would be determined in the future, if at all.

 

The Public Defender's Office's stance is supported by a recent review by the State Comptroller's Office, which stated that the Interior Ministry – which would be in responsible for the database's maintenance and security – does not even its own data security expert.  

 

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