Report: Israel facing biometric database woe

05/07/17

Israel's population agency has had a number of complaints, refusals and technical issues as the country launches a biometric database, according to local media.

During the first month that biometric identity documents have been compulsory, 15 percent of those getting new passports or identity cards refused to have their fingerprints stored in the database, report Haaretz.

Under the new procedures, a high-resolution facial photograph is automatically stored in the database, while the issue of fingerprints is left up to the applicant. Those who refuse to have their fingerprints stored get passports or identity cards that expire in five years, rather than 10. Children under 16 do not have their fingerprints stored. According to the Population and Immigration Authority, 107,000 passports and 65,000 identity cards were issued in June.

On Sunday the parliamentary oversight committee on the biometric database reported that it had been deluged with complaints of citizens who had difficulty obtaining the new documents.

Acting population authority director Amnon Shmueli did not deny that the situation early in the month was chaotic. “The first few days were crazy; everyone descended on our bureaus,” Shmueli said. “But the situation has calmed down; the panic that prevailed then has passed.” He added that 17 percent of the people who came to the bureaus to replace their documents did so unnecessarily because their documents were still valid.

Shmueli added that when the demand became apparent the authority hastened to adopt a system of making appointments by email, but because of problems relating to information security, this was done in only three population bureaus. By the end of this month, he said, the system will be operational in all of the country’s bureaus.

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