RISHON LEZION, Israel, July 9 (UPI) -- Israel began the first stage of a pilot program for a biometric database of identity cards and passports that will be fully operational by 2015, officials said.
Addressing fears of invasion of privacy, Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar said Monday the system complies "with the highest standards of information security and safeguard[s] privacy. I recommend that all Israeli citizens take part in the pilot and choose a smart ID," Haaretz quoted him as saying.
The pilot program was introduced in the cities of Rishon Lezion and Ashdod Monday, and in Herzliya and Kfar Saba Tuesday. It will run on a voluntary basis for two years before becoming compulsory, the paper said. By the end of the month, citizens across the country will be able to apply for biometric identity cards and passports.
Ministry officials stressed the main object of the database is to prevent identity theft and the practice of forging identity documents and passports, the paper said.
A number of civil rights protesters demonstrated outside the ministry's Rishon Lezion office during a press conference held by Sa'ar and other ministry officials.
Nir Hirschman of the Digital Rights Movement said many view the database as a serious threat to Israeli citizens. Attempts by the government to reassure the public the information is properly secured, are no more than a "bluff," The Jerusalem Post said he charged.
Hirschman said there is no way to ensure someone from the government with access to the database won't use it for illicit reasons, or terrorists or enemy states abroad won't succeed in accessing it.