Knesset Committee greenlights police usage of facial recognition software

Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt

Deuteronomy

5:

15

(the israel bible)

May 9, 2022

2 min read

The Knesset Law committee approved a bill entitled “Law to correct the police authority” designed to enable facial recognition cameras against civilians and “identifying vehicles on the streets,” reports Tech12. 

“A national mission”

At this point, the coalition will propose the law to the Knesset and lay the groundwork for implementing it into law.

A majority approved the draft of the bill of the committee. The only MK opposing the bill was Aliyah and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamno Shatah. The chair of the committee, Justice Minister Gidon Sa’ar, voted in favor despite opposing the idea of facial recognition cameras in the past saying: “There is a national mission to increase the rate of identification through technological means with oversight. This is a worldwide trend.” He admitted that the notion of a violation of privacy was “a big question.”
Minister of Justice, Gideon Sa’ar, speaks during the conference of the Israeli Television News Company in Tel Aviv on September 5, 2019. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90

The initiative comes at a time when parts of the United States and Europe mull the allowance of law enforcement from using facial recognition cameras. The technology being proposed by the government will have the capability to identify every Israeli civilian’s location in the past and present, even if they are innocent of any criminal activity.

Recognizing anywhere in the public sphere

According to the draft of the law, the special camera network is a network of cameras that can identify people or objects based on their biometric properties and use artificial intelligence to cross-reference them with images in the database.

Aliyah minister Pnina Tamano-Shata by Miriam Alster/Flash90

“The network has the capability of recognizing a person or object in real-time, enabling it to track or investigate an individual,” the bill states. According to the Israeli police, the technology can recognize a person anywhere in the public sphere and, in some instances, the private sphere as well.

MK Gideon Sa’ar explained his support for the bill, saying: “Excuse me, but when we’re talking about a database of terrorists, the violation of privacy is a lower priority.”

Excess law enforcement

MK Tamno-Shatah replied, saying: “when there is an opportunity for excess law enforcement when a police officer can activate biometric cameras in every neighborhood with the click of a button, there is an opportunity for manipulation and excess law enforcement for specific populaces.”

“According to what parameters will you decide which areas are prone to serious crimes? Who will oversee the police?” she added.

The Israeli police have been using similar technology to identify vehicles according to their license plates for several years. Placing facial recognition software in the hands of the police is unprecedented in the Jewish State.

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