Haaretz Israeli News
Last update - 10:40 08/12/2009
The Knesset passed a bill Monday to establish a biometric database that might require all Israelis to have a chip installed in their ID cards and passports with their fingerprints and facial scans.
The bill passed by a large majority in second and third readings following a prolonged debate and after its original version had been modified.
The new law postpones the controversial database for two years, during which a partial database will be set up to give the state time to examine ways of safeguarding the information.
During those two years, only people who agree to have their details on a chip would receive "smart" ID cards and passports.
After that, the interior minister would be able to apply the law to all citizens or extend the probation period by another two years. If after four years it is decided not to implement the law in full, the entire biometric database would be deleted.
The MKs dismissed dozens of reservations submitted by the left-wing Hadash and Meretz parties, and by Labor MK Eitan Cabel.
Under the original bill, all citizens' fingerprints and facial scans were to be stored in the database. It said ID cards and passports that were updated as "smart" documents would significantly reduce forgery.
The database was supposed to help solve crimes, but amid sharp criticism by human rights groups and fears that sensitive information might leak to criminals or Israel's enemies, a ministerial committee was set up to hammer out the compromise.
The main fears were that criminals could access the database and plant false biometric information at crime scenes, or that countries could expose the identities of Israeli secret agents.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), one of the bill's strongest opponents, said at the Knesset debate Monday that "passing the bill is a grave mistake, severely infringing on individual liberty."
He held up papers from the Interior Ministry's database with MKs' personal details that had leaked to the Internet.
"This proves how easy breaking into government databases is," he said.
MK Meir Sheetrit, who initiated and spearheaded the bill, said that strict security precautions would be taken to prevent leaks. He said the facial-scan data would be kept separately from the fingerprint data.
"Only employees of the special authority set up in the Interior Ministry would have access to the database. They would not work anywhere else and would undergo security examinations and screening .... They would have to pass a lie-detector test every year to make sure none of them is leaking or abusing the information," he said. Infractions would entail heavy penalties.
ProphecyWatcher: This is significant as these were predictions we have been making for years. Mandatory chips in cards are the forerunners for mandatory chips in hands. However, we are fully aware that biometric microchip implants are already being done.