Official reports from Israel’s Deputy Interior Minister reveal that the country’s national biometric database is expected to launch in mid-July.
According to a Haaretz report, the database – which was originally scheduled to commence in November of 2011 – was delayed by an unforeseen, lengthy legislative proceeding that included an appeal to Israel’s High Court of Justice. The unsuccessful appeal, filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, was accompanied by a labor dispute between the Population and Immigration Authority and the Finance Ministry, but following a resolution two weeks ago, the final barrier for the national biometric database has been lifted.
The biometric database consists of an electronic assembly of data that collects and centralizes the fingerprints and facial features of all Israeli citizens. The database will act as part of a larger initiative in Israel that will issue new smart identification credentials to its citizens.
The digital chip to be used in the new smart IDs will contain citizens’ biometric data, enabling them to be identified according to their unique physical traits, fingerprints and facial features.
Israeli officials have not cemented a long-term timetable for the biometric database as of yet and the Population Authority has stated that, due to the complexity of the project, any proposed schedules are still subject to change.
For now, the pilot is scheduled to run for two years, with a possible extension to follow. After this initial trial, Israeli officials will likely decide whether the biometric initiative is worthy of a permanent assignment.
During the initial trial run, any Israeli citizen renewing their ID or a passport will be asked by Interior Ministry officials whether they want one of the new smart biometric credentials, leaving citizens with the choice to opt out. According to Israeli officials, the proposed benefit to adopting the new biometric credential is that the smart documents will facilitate pre-flight processing and boarding at many worldwide airports.
On the other side of the argument sits the Association for Civil Rights who believe that a centralized biometric database is not a compulsory measure in the issuance of smart or biometric documents.
The Association vehemently opposes the biometric initiative, claiming that its sole purpose is to amass a huge police database. The Association deems the project to be an infringement on citizen privacy, and that leaked data would almost certainly cause irreversible damage, bringing the crux of the biometric debate down to, once again, privacy and security.