Photo Credit: US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Willis
US military official scans an Afghan woman's iris

The Knesset plenum passed in a preliminary vote a bill to include biometric verification methods and biometric verification data in ID documents and in the national database. 41 MK supported the bill, 25 opposed, and the bill was forwarded to the House Committee to decide which Knesset Committees will ready it for the next vote.

The bill includes several stipulations: citizens must give their approval to the inclusion of their fingerprints in the national database; the database will contain biometric facial images only; Citizens who participated in the pilot program can request that their data be deleted within a period to be determined; and, most important, the bill stresses the need to provide state-of-the-art technology to guarantee the prevention of identity theft.

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Incidentally, during the pilot program, more than one million Israeli citizens, or close to a third of those requesting ID documents agreed to participate in the biometric verification program.

Deputy Interior Minister Meshulam Nahari (Shas), who introduced the bill at the plenum, assured the Knesset that all the national security agencies have tested the issue in depth and most experts have recommended the establishment of a biometric verification data center.

MK Dov Khenin (Joint Arab List) objected to the new bill on the grounds that it ushers in a Big Brother society. He argued that there shouldn’t be a connection between smart ID documents, which are a good idea, to prevent identity theft, and the inclusion of the collected data in a center that’s available to the state at will. “Like every other database, the biometric verification center is bound to be broken into, sooner or later,” Khenin notes.

All the objections at the plenum debate, including from MKs Haim Jelin (Yesh Atid) and Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) had to do with the fear of government abusing the collected data.

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