Israeli Supreme Court Dismisses Petitions Against the National Biometric Database

The Israeli High Court of Justice dismissed the petitions filed against the Israeli biometric database law (officially called The Inclusion of Biometric Identification Measures and Biometric Identification Data in Identification Documents and a Database Law, 5770-2009). Since 2017, the law requires citizens seeking to issue identification documents (passports and IDs), to provide their facial images (and optionally, thumbprints), to be stored in the national biometric database.

According to reports, in the five years since biometric data collection became mandatory, the data of at least six million Israeli citizens was collected and stored in the national database. During this period, the government kept adamantly asserting that the biometric database is required to prevent “double acquisitions” – i.e., the acquisition of double identities by criminal actors using biometric means.

The petitioners asserted that the existence and significance of the “double acquisitions” problem is unclear, while the potential harm to the privacy of individuals due to a data breach or unauthorized access to the database is enormous. The court dismissed this argument, holding that because millions of Israelis still have non-biometric identification documents, it is still difficult to empirically evaluate the petitioners’ assertions. The court held with the full transition to biometric identification documents in 2024, a better assessment of the concerns and risks will be possible.

The court signed off the decision by leaving an opening for a subsequent refiling of the petitions. “Lest we forget that we are dealing with complex technological issues, and what today seems to be decades away, could become a reality tomorrow,” the court remarked.

CLICK HERE to read the High Court of Justice’s ruling in the matter of Zidan et al v. the Government of Israel et al (in Hebrew).