Israel’s security bodies receive direct access to biometric databases and cameras

Israel’s police and security agencies will now be able to create a derivative of the national biometric database without adequate supervision and protection mechanisms, the IDF and the Shin Bet will be able to penetrate private security cameras without the need for court approval and without a mechanism to prevent the misuse of information.

In addition, the cyber system and the Shin Bet will be able to order private businesses to carry out various actions in response to a cyber attack. Against the backdrop of the war with Hamas and in the name of real security needs, the government ministries have promoted and approved a series of laws, memoranda of law, and emergency regulations that threaten to change consolidated orders in a way that can harm the privacy and protection of information of all of us. Some of them may create irreversible situations, and all this without proper supervision by the judiciary or the Knesset.

The first move deals with the national biometric database, where facial images, and in some cases also fingerprints, of approximately 7 million Israelis are stored. On Wednesday, the Knesset approved in a second and third reading an amendment to the biometric database law that will allow the database data to be leveraged to help identify murdered, kidnapped, and missing persons. The law was approved in an expedited procedure only a week after the law memorandum on the subject was published to the public. The speed is jarring in light of the many years it took to enact and operate the database.

The explanatory notes to the memorandum of law described an urgent need to change these procedures. “In view of the lack of a full response to the needs of identification in the police and IDF databases, an essential and urgent need has arisen for the possibility of transferring information from the biometric database in the Ministry of the Interior to both the police, and the General Security Service, the Intelligence and Special Task Force, and the IDF, for the purpose of identifying the murdered, the missing, the unknown, and the captives, as well as allowing the police to receive information from other sources,” it said.

The law also makes another change in the way the database operates and states that the fingerprints, which only a year ago were determined to no longer be added to the biometric database, will actually be kept from now until the expiration of the temporary order. This is a change that returns to the database information that it was decided is no longer necessary for its current functioning for its main purpose (verifying a person’s identity), and that its contribution to identification will be zero (the number of citizens who will submit their fingerprints to the database in the coming year and then it will also be necessary to identify them using them will surely be marginal).

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