from the January 2010 issue

Knesset Approves Biometric Database

It will be two years until the national biometric database may become a compulsory entity, The ambitious national project was approved by Knesset and it is about to become reality, albeit on a trial basis. The proposal passed by a 40-11 vote, with most lawmakers supporting the eventual move to electronic identification cards and amassing the information that will in the future serve as a vital component of law-enforcement, assist security and defense agencies, and reportedly simplify identification of victims.

The volunteers will be able to receive an electronic identification card and passport. Those wishing to wait and see may do so.

During the coming two years, those Israelis wishing to take part in the voluntary test project may do so, as the system is tested. Opponents remained strong in their objections, ranging from accusations of gross violation of privacy rights to concerns that the vital database poses a major security risk if breached.

As the trial period winds down, ministers will have to file a report to the Knesset and final decisions will be made.

Security officials supporting the move stress the current laminated ID cards are too outdated and can easily be forged. Ministry of the Interior officials report there are hundreds of thousands of people holding forged cards. In addition, American officials have informed Israel on numerous occasions that until such time the nation moves to high-tech passports, the Department of State will not entertain Israeli requests to do away visa demands for visiting Israelis, explaining the visa process is the nation's safeguard against terrorism, permitting validation of a potential travelers' information. The current Israeli passports, like the teudat zehut identity cards, can be forged with ease.

Proponents also reject fears of hackers breaking the database, explaining the data will be held in at least two ministries and joined when someone with the proper senior clearance seeks to access it, seeming to reassure the nation that even if breached, the database will not be accessible as many believe.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report January 2010

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