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Israel to start collecting fingerprints from all citizens

The new biometric database, approved last Thursday, is a threat to the privacy and freedom of every Israeli. It is our duty to refuse it

By Atty. Jonathan J. Klinger

Last Thursday marked the final approval of the biometric database regulations and the biometric database order in Israel; the regulations and order were approved by a special Knesset panel participated solely by MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) and Abraham Michaeli (Shas), where Sheetrit was the initial entrepreneur of the Biometric Database in his position as minister of interior.

This marks the end of a process that began two years ago when The Knesset approved the biometric bill. The discussions prior to the approval were on who shall be granted access to the citizen’s biometric database (but not to whether it’s really needed). According to the biometric law, any citizen or resident that joins the database will have to provide the ministry of interior his fingerprints and a photograph of his face which will be stored in a central database which may be accessible to the ministry of interior, the police and other security services.

Following public protest (heard mostly on the internet) it was decided that the database shall commence with a pilot program which will take no longer than four years. During this term, which commences this November, the necessity of the database will be evaluated (however, recent statements show that the pilot is not actually a pilot). Once the pilot program ends, every citizen who refuses biometric identification is subject to a prison term of up to a year.

The only way to stop the forming of the database is to refuse to provide the government with fingerprint during the pilot period.

On the question of why the biometric database is dangerous to every Israeli there are numerous answers which were already raised by experts and discussed over and over again. Briefly, the stated purpose of the database is to prevent forgery of identity cards, and forged identities. However, in order to prevent identity theft and ID forgery there is no actual need for a biometric database. Several other methods for the protection of citizen’s identity already exist, including electronic identification cards.

As we learned from a recently leaked document, the only reason that a biometric database is required was to pass information to the police about the citizens of Israel. This is the reason the police rejected a safer mean of storing biometric information detailed by Prof. Adi Shamir, claiming that it won’t be able to use such database. The same police that uses violence on protesters from the right and left, who crush political dissent by Arabs and social activists, now asks for unprecedented authority over Israeli citizens.

Another reason to object to biometric identification and the biometric database is that once one’s biometrics become his or her unique identifier, then anyone with access to this information could possibly steal your identity. And of course I need not remind you that you leave your fingerprints on any cup of coffee you drink, right?

The question that comes to mind is how we, as citizens, could protest against the biometric identification and the biometric database. The state is going to try as hard as it can to persuade us to provide it with our fingerprints; the bureaucrats and clerks in the ministry of interior are obliged, by the national order, to offer every Israeli the option of joining the pilot. Yes, in the same way that your grocery store clerk is obliged to offer you to join their value club, so does the clerk in the ministry of interior have to offer you to join the experiment.

However, one of the criteria by which the pilot will be judged is the number of people that opted not to join the database, as a percentage of the entire population. These people must be us.

Beginning November 1st, it is our civil duty to go to the ministry of interior’s offices and get new, non-biometric cards, so that our refusal to enter into the pilot will be counted, and in two years time, when the pilot is examined, the parliament will find out that no one wants this database.

If we fail to do so, we will find ourselves in two years with a mandatory biometric database, that like any other database held in Israel, makes our privacy forfeit.

Jonathan J. Klinger is an Israeli cyberlaw attorney who was one of the activists against the biometric database. Atty. Klinger is legal advisor for +972 magazine.


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    1. Louis

      So, In practice and en masse how do we do it…

      Reply to Comment
    2. Yonatan

      Once this is established, Sheetrit “the initial entrepreneur” or his successors can deny you access to any and all government services and other subscribed services – at a whim. No shopping, no access to your bank, no way to leave the country, no way to travel. This is the definition of tyranny.

      Reply to Comment
    3. David

      Also stop driving cars, no more sanitary pads, no more computers since they too enable a complete overview of ones ID. Stop using paper, since there too, data is recorded. In fact why don’t we all move in with the Beduins in the Negev?

      Reply to Comment
    4. abban aziz

      what’s the problem here?

      seems much easier and cost-effective than managing a huge and pointless selective-service bank that holds the IDs of 100+ million combat-age americans.

      Reply to Comment
    5. JD

      @David: Because the Beduin are about to be “relocated”.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Danny

      Even more state control over its complacent citizenry. Nice! Has a 1984 ring to it! So let me see if I have this correctly – if I refuse to give my biometric identity (which really belongs to me and me alone) to the state, I am breaking the law and subject to prison term? Really?? What’s next, DNA samples? My guess is that so many people are going to refuse to participate that the idea will just evaporate back into Shitreet’s head.

      Reply to Comment
    7. max

      Danny, I assume you don’t intend to visit the US anymore, right? You obviously also never use Google, or you’re sure that it uses magic, not your data to make money.
      I think that the biometric database is a bad thing. But it’s already here, and we’d better discuss how to better protect the data than ignore reality

      Reply to Comment
    8. David

      Most EU countries have switched to Bio-metric (passport) data, or will be there in the the near future. This is a non story. To safeguard the consumer from computer crime in the future fingerprints will be the rule. In fact I look forward to it. Then there is no more need for nine different PIN and six passwords. It’s kinda like being against mobile phones, being against bio-metric data. In the UK and the USA already DNA banks are used to match crimes and criminals.
      I mean, the far left collects spent CS gas shells to supposedly match something.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Fritz

      Mandatory fingerprinting for all Jews was introduced 1938 in Germany. The irony!

      Reply to Comment
    10. @David
      No, this is rather a non-comment of yours. Biometric EU passport data ist NOT stored in a central database, but plugged to passport individually. Only, what US authorities will do with it, remains questionable.

      So, this is in fact a new level of threat to civil society and there is a sense in refusing to ccoperate as Israeli.

      Reply to Comment
    11. David

      Another thought is that if the police or Shabak wish to obtain any info on you, they can. I highly computerized society with such a sophisticated security apparatus will not be stopped with or with out a central data base. Or do we assume that just because data is decentralized it is harder to find? Come on! I am more worried about freaks like Assange than the state.

      Reply to Comment
    12. @David
      Ui, the ugly brother of “I ain’t got nothing to hide” entered the argumentation: “You got nothing to hide, what they don’t know anyway.”

      Decentralized data is not simply harder to find, it is not connected. My database Home is full of finger print and DNA samples, but it is not connected to the police’s gallery.

      I am more worried about freaks (your term) like you denying the civil rights of privacy protection. (Now, enough and to spare the troll.)

      Reply to Comment
    13. David

      I wrote nothing like the above. But it is all the same to the left.
      “Fingerprints” are coming, because they can not be forged, unlike passports. Talking about real privacy in the age of iPhone, computers and mobile phones, cctv etc? I hear the luddites calling, seriously.
      Our entire lives are online already, will a refusal to fingerprint make a difference ? Hardly.
      When a seventeen year old hacker can “search” your digital life from half way around the world, how will you move against something that is a done deal in most countries in the west?

      Reply to Comment
    14. David

      Do they have a fingerprint data base in Aza? In Syria? In Iran? In Yemen? In Turkey? No. They just come over and shoot you in the head.
      Up until that point, your privacy rights were better protected than in say the USA or Germany. The point just before they rape your daughter in front of your eyes and then shoot you in the face. BUT HEY!
      They did not get your prints. That makes one feel like beating the system.

      Reply to Comment