The cabinet has approved a bill which, if it becomes law, will establish a national biometric database containing fingerprints and biometric information on Israeli citizens.
Under the bill, which was proposed by Minister of the Interior Meir Sheetrit, every person will be required to have their photograph taken and provide two fingerprints and a facial scan to the Ministry of Interior, which will use the information to produce passports and ID cards with fingerprint impressions on them.
The bill provides that a person who refuses to provide the Ministry of the Interior with the required biometric data will be liable to one year in prison and will be disqualified from applying for a ID card or passport.
The Ministry of the Interior says the bill is designed to reduce the incidences of forgery of Israeli ID cards and passports. Ministry data reveals that in 2005-2007, 150,000 new documents were issued a year to replace documents that had either been lost, stolen, or defaced.
The bill provides for the setting up of a special authority within the Ministry of Interior, under the auspices of the Population Registry and the Immigration and Border Control Authority, which will coordinate and handle the biometric database. The ministry says the staff employed by the authority will have the highest security clearance, and that the database will be entirely separate from the existing population registration records.
Sheetrit dismissed claims that the proposal amounted to an invasion of privacy. The bill, he said, was actually designed to protect Israeli citizens. "It is unacceptable that because of a lack of the technology already in use in most Western countries, Israeli citizens should have to run the risk of having either their identity or documents stolen. The effect of having a passport or ID card stolen can be far-reaching and there can be many consequences especially with regard to security," he said.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 3, 2008
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