Israeli Government Pushes National Biometric Database With Claims Of Security Superiority Nobody Thinks Are True
from the painting-a-target dept
There has been something of a push in recent years in different countries to build biometric databases of varying degrees. These efforts are typically marred by pushback and controversy, with countries like Argentina using these databases in order to have law enforcement chill its citizenry from protests in the streets, with our very own FBI rolling out its own biometric database that lacked the promised privacy oversight with which it had been billed. Despite the fact that you can nearly set your watch to the speed with which such lists will be abused, these previous efforts at least paid lip-service to the notion that the databases would focus only on criminals in their respective countries.
That isn't the case for the decree made by Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri about the plans for a new compulsory biometric database for all Israeli citizens.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri sparked controversy Wednesday when he announced that all Israelis must join the national biometric database. Deri said everyone would be required to upgrade their ID cards and passports to "smart cards" embedded with their personal biometric characteristics, including fingerprints. The pilot biometric database was launched about three years ago and caused a public uproar, with many said they would refuse to be included.
It's amazing how things can change. The Israeli government really ought to know better than to create a database of its citizens. One might refer to it as a registration of Jewish people with the government, in a way. I seem to recall others in history creating lists of Jews and it didn't work out all that well.
Now, nobody would suggest that the Israeli government would want to persecute its own people a la Nazi Germany. Nor do we need to Godwin ourselves in this post so readily. The problem is that creating this database is akin to painting a target on the backs of the Jewish people, a people already in the crosshairs of many of their neighbors. To this, Deri and his office have responded with claims of how necessary the database is and how sure they are that they can secure it against outside hacking by terrorist groups. Few are buying the latter claim.
The Digital Rights Movement, which has been waging a campaign against the database since its inception, announced that it will file a High Court of Justice petition against the move. The group has launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance the legal battle.
"Only in Israel will it become possible to collect the fingerprints of every citizen," the group said in a statement. "Contrary to the opinions of 74 of the best information security and encryption experts in Israel, the interior minister is spinning a tall tale about how secure the database is and that it cannot be hacked -- but he is wrong. It is not for nothing that 70% of the public has refused to be included in this database."
Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler of the Israel Democracy Institute warned that "this is a problematic decision that subjects highly sensitive information to danger. Having any kind of biometric database endangers our privacy as a whole. Studies in Israel and abroad have proved unequivocally that such a database will be breached and that officials with access to it will abuse it."
Whatever use law enforcement might have in such a database surely is mitigated by the potential danger from both outside groups getting access to it or by internal abuse within the Israeli government. As the quote aboves suggests, these sorts of lists are practically begging to be abused and/or targeted. Again, I would think the goverment of Israel would be especially sensitive to the dangers here. Its citizens certainly are.