Avner Pinchuk, who runs the Privacy Rights program at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, writes about personal privacy concerning biometric data in Israel in an opinion column for the Jerusalem Post:
Last week, after almost five years on the case, authorities located and arrested the suspects that publicized private information on the Internet about Israelis stolen from the Population Registry. Investigators were surprised to learn that not only was the entire Population Registry leaked, but so was other sensitive material such as the national adoption database, which stores details on adopting parents, adopted children, biological parents, etc. The Ministry of Justice described the damage done to the country and its residents as “severe.” This case has called attention to the dangers all the country’s citizens face if someone were to get their hands on the biometric database which the government is set to begin piloting in the coming days.
The “Identification Card, Travel Papers and Biometric Database Bill,” passed in 2009, is meant to provide a reliable, “smart” system that includes biometric data, such as fingerprints and digital photographs, in identification cards and passports. The biometric data will also be concentrated in a database system maintained by the Interior Ministry. […]
With such a database, the potential for abuse of power and information is extremely high. […]
Once a biometric database is in place, if there was any kind of leak such as the one that took place last week, there would not even be a point in conducting an investigation, since the damage to individual citizens would be “irreparable,” as the Interior Ministry has already admitted.
Despite this fact, the Interior Ministry is leading a campaign to convince the Israeli public to participate in its pilot by volunteering to submit their information. Those championing the database claim that as opposed to the current system, the biometric database will be secure. I don’t buy it.
Aside from the potential security risks and irreversible damage that would be caused should such information be leaked, the fundamental problem the biometric database raises is that its very establishment and existence in the hands of the government is a severe infringement of the right to privacy and of the democratic structure.