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According to recent publications various Israeli security agencies, including the Mossad and the Shin-Bet, will not allow their agents to join the biometric database
The same security agencies opposed the establishment of the database since it was first proposed, even for the general populace, and recently it was revealed that agents are not allowed to join the latest database trials. Diplomats, including ministers and Knesset members, are also excluded from the latest trial version of the biometric database. The question has to be asked: If the goal is to eventually have all Israeli citizens join, but they won’t join it themselves, is there something to be afraid of?
Government representatives claimed that the biometric database will be heavily protected, preventing leaks of any sort. Cyber experts, however, believe that it will eventually reach the wrong hands, as have previous government databases. Should the database leak security agencies will find it extremely difficult to operate in secret.
A development by Vikisense, specializing in biometric facial recognition, shows how damaging such a leak can be. Not even various stealth measures – or attempts to stay out of the cameras’ line of sight – will help agents remain anonymous.
“We photographed people with their head facing up and with their head down, with faces covered by hands or turned away from the camera – and still managed to identify them correctly. Our analysis produces a vector from each picture, which is then compared to other, less clear, images.” This according to David Dahan, Director of Technological Development for Vikisense. “We’ve also added the ability to simulate beards, glasses, hats and so on.”
According to Amos Romano, Vikisense Director of Business Development, many other means exist that enhance identification capabilities even further. “Our system can learn. The more it sees a person, the more precisely it’s able to identify him or her. Several cameras can be used together, giving more data to the system and resulting in more efficient analysis. Eventually we’ll know who we’re looking at.”
Following petitions by privacy activists, the High Court recently ordered the Israeli Ministry of Interior to make it clear that there’s no obligation to join the database at this point, and the rights of those who refuse to participate won’t be affected. The biometric trails began in July 2013 and are expected to end late this year. Following trial completion the government will have to decide whether the database will be made mandatory.