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Israel: Biometric Databank Proposal

(Nov. 19, 2009) On November 17, 2009,the special Knesset (Israel's parliament) committee for evaluating the subject of a biometric database convened at the Prime Minister's office and decided to postpone voting on a bill to implement a biometric system for two years. According to the bill, electronic identification cards would replace the current paper ones and include two fingerprints and a digital photograph for each Israeli citizen. Opponents of the bill raised privacy concerns and argued that although similar databanks exist in other countries, they are limited to data on offenders, tourists, and visitors and do not contain data retrieved from all citizens as a mandatory requirement.

According to a compromise reached in the committee, a pilot program will enable any Israeli who requests an identity card or a passport to join the biometric bank. This will be an option; those who do not wish to provide such data can obtain regular certificates. The objective of the pilot program seems to be to examine the level of security of the databank and the public's willingness to voluntarily provide fingerprints. (Inclusion of Biometric Identification Measures in Certificates of Identification and in Data Bank Bill, 5769-2009 [in Hebrew], the Knesset website, (last visited Nov. 18, 2009); Atila Shomflavi & Ehud Kinan, A Compromise: The Biometric Bank Will Be Delayed for Two Years, Yediot Acharonot Newspaper Online, Nov. 17, 2009, available at,25