Editor’s note: The first phase of Israel’s “biometric” law, which would ultimately require citizens to register the fingerprints and a blood sample with the state, will begin today, January 1st, with a pilot project offering citizens to voluntarily register. This article, by Likud Knesset candidate Moshe Feiglin appeared earlier last year, but we thought it was especially relevant now.
Cutting edge technology is a double-edged sword. Under the mantle of progress, and with increasing ease, we are losing greater and greater slices of our freedom. Opponents of the proposed Biometric Law say they worry about how secure a database housing the biometric information of all of Israel’s citizens will be. That fear was recently confirmed when a Saudi Arabian hacker succeeded in breaking into supposedly secure Israeli websites. If the Foreign Ministry’s database was broken into, if the Israeli credit card base was broken into, it is safe to assume that the biometric database will also be compromised.
The possibility of breaking into the database is simply too strong of a temptation for powerful interest groups and tycoons, who are sure to find a way to get to this data. The same is true for the crazy idea to computerize the elections. If there is a stage in the vote counting process during which a candidate or his representative cannot physically check the voter slip—it is exactly at that stage that the election will be compromised. There is no way around the fact that when election results are transferred in electronic files, election fraud becomes a simple task. In America, the idea of digital voting has become so controversial that it is no longer a political debate, but a legal issue.
But my opposition to the Biometric Law is a lot deeper than that.
Many years before the invention of computers and the unraveling of the genetic code, an argument developed in the United States around the question of identity cards. America’s founding fathers did all they could do ensure that the American Constitution would protect individual liberties at any price.
For the American founding fathers, liberty superseded all other values. They engraved it on their flag and fought for it. It is liberty that gave them the most important thing of all: a goal and sense of national purpose that fueled the creation of the American nation. The founding fathers understood how easy it is to slide down a slippery slope in which liberty slips away step by step, without anyone noticing.
Distrust of governmental authority is a value that the founding fathers engraved through every line of the constitution and American culture. It is for this reason that the simple question of requiring citizens to carry identity cards became a judicial matter in the United States. Americans said, “No way am I going to let the state treat me as a number on its list, and require me to identify according to this number. My identity is exactly that—my identity, and it does not belong to anyone else.” For the Israeli citizen, this sounds absurd, for we grew up in a culture far removed this type of liberty consciousness.
Does all of this seem irrelevant? Let us do a little test, so that you can see how easy it is to lose your liberty:
If Biometric Law proponent Kadimah MK Meir Sheetrit pushed through a law requiring every one of you to go to a certified tattoo center, and ink in a number on your shoulder—would you agree to that? Of course not. Even thinking about this brings up horrifying memories.
But what if the tattoo centers used invisible ink—would you agree then? In that case, I think many people would agree. The law is the law, right?
If they were to tattoo you with invisible ink and offer you some perks in return—cutting lines, property tax breaks, and more—would you agree? In my opinion, more than 50 percent would agree to that, and maybe even more.
Now for the final question. If instead of ink they use a biometric technique which marks you without touching you, and on top of that, they will give you the perks previously mentioned—are you willing? The overwhelming majority of people would agree to that.
Now look at how, with amazing ease, they have shut off all of our warning lights and closed our eyes. The master of the house has chiseled our ear into the doorpost like a Biblical slave…and, just like that, we’ve made a soft landing into a life of servitude.
People can lose their liberty without feeling a thing. So guard it with the greatest vigilance and do not give anyone your biometric information.Moshe Feiglin