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National Biometric Database on Hold

A joint Knesset committee on Wednesday formally approved delaying the establishment of the controversial national biometric database for two years. In accordance with the compromise set forth by Minister Michael Eitan, during the two year period, those citizens wishing to take part in the database may do so, but no one be compelled.

The biometric issue recently reached a peak, with many rejecting its legitimacy, insisting it represents a gross violation of one’s privacy, and poses a major security risk, two points which outweigh all the benefit of such a database opponents insist.

Proponents state that in today’s day and age, the database is essential, and its benefit is immeasurable in many areas, including defense and law-enforcement, as well as for identification of victims.

Israel is sorely lagging in a number of areas, including the area of biometric passports. This is a major stumbling block preventing the United States from accepting an Israeli request to permit citizens to travel to the US without obtaining a visa. American Homeland Security and other officials insist that Israel’s antiquated passports are too easily forged and the visa system if the last line of defense against such acts. America has instructed Israel to changeover to modern passports and then a request may be filed, but such a move has been prevented for a number of years, for one reason or another.

Security experts in Israel also lament the fact that the national identity card is still a laminated card that is easily forged. Interior Ministry officials in recent years confirmed that at any given time, there may be tens of thousands or more people in the country carrying fraudulent identity cards.

Proponents of the biometric database brought in some of the nation’s computer security experts, who attested to the integrity of the system, which would store biometric information in a number of areas, preventing anyone from penetrating the system and obtaining all the information. Despite their statements attesting to the highest level of security, the issue of invasion of privacy remained a major stumbling block. The result is the delay for another two years.

(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)

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