Israel to pool citizens’ fingerprints


Israel is setting up a fingerprint database in a drive to prevent identity theft among its citizens.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Cabinet on Sunday approved a proposal to set up a “biometric database” that would pool the photographs and fingerprints of citizens when they apply for new passports and identity cards.

“The reason for the change is twofold: to combat counterfeiting and to utilize the change to significantly improve services provided citizens by government bodies,” Olmert said in broadcast remarks.

“What will be done is an integration of biometric elements to create the highest level of accuracy in personal identification known to science today. The identity card will include an element known as a smart card which, in addition to the biometric information, will allow Israeli citizens to contact governmental services digitally and electronically.”

National security has been cited as the main reason for the precaution, but there are also crime and immigration concerns. According to authorities, a growing phenomenon has Israelis selling their passports illegally abroad and then reporting them lost or stolen. The ill-gotten documents often have been used by international criminals.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel came out against the new database, saying it would risk turning the state into “Big Brother.” According to the association, authorities already have about 80 separate items of information that allow them to verify the identification of citizens.

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