Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked on June 30, 2021

Israel’s Population Authority (Interior Ministry) “erroneously” set up a secret, illegal biometric database, according to a report by Omar Kabir that exposed the existence of the database in the Hebrew-language Calcalist.

The illegal biometric database currently operates alongside the Population Authority’s legal biometric database. The illegal entity includes facial images of most Israeli citizens, which enables full biometric identification.

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The existence of the illegal entity was revealed in the (Hebrew-language) periodic report of the Commissioner for Biometric Applications in the National Cyber System, which was sent to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked last month.

Now that its existence has been exposed, however, the Population Authority is seeking to “make legislative changes” that would legalize the second database rather than delete it, thus allowing the Population Authority to retain the photos therein.

The whole point of the biometric database is to prevent identity theft by people who apply twice for identity cards or passports.

However, a dispute between the office of the commissioner and the biometric authority has resulted in a lack of coordination between the two, making it difficult for the database to do its job.

Nir Hirschman, one of the leaders of the digital rights movement, contends that if there is a database that has not been collected legally it should be deleted immediately and those responsible for its establishment should be prosecuted.

“Any such database is potentially a dirty bomb which could be leaked to hostile elements on one hand or be used by the enemies of democracy on the other,” Hirschman told Calcalist.

“This issue has many operational implications that will affect the Population Authority’s ability to fulfill its purpose, impact on day to day work, have a direct impact on services to the citizen and the Authority’s capability to fulfill its responsibilities within that role,” the Population Authority said in a statement to Calcalist.

“The Population Authority’s position is that legislative changes must be made that will allow the Authority to continue to hold on to the photos,” the statement said.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.