Israel: Police promote nationwide facial recognition system

Workers install security cameras on a street pole near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City (Reuters)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  July 16, 2021

Police in Israel have been promoting a controversial bill that would allow the installation of nationwide facial recognition cameras in public spaces, roads and border exits.

The new bill will grant the police automatic power to install and operate facial recognition cameras without a rigid check-and-balance system of other authorities, Ynet reported.

The police will be able to monitor Israeli citizens and residents in public spaces in real-time and match their faces to the data stored in public databases.

The bill will also allow police to place cameras on every street in every city and inside buildings, such as malls or government offices, operating facial recognition technology indefinitely. 

The Israeli army and various government ministries will gain unlimited access to the biometric information collected by these cameras.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Israel in March 2020, the government has deployed a surveillance system to test and trace people and watch citizens who breach quarantine or go further than the allowed limited radius from their homes.

The new bill states that its goal is to prevent and uncover crime, find and arrest criminals, and help maintain public order and safety.

But its critics have raised the alarm over privacy issues. Anne Suciu, a lawyer at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said the bill will offer power to the police “to conduct mass surveillance of citizens, including biometric facial recognition.”

“This law is a huge threat to the privacy of all of us and it give a free hand to the police to use the information it gathers by means of this technology without judicial oversight. We will not let this surveillance law pass,” Suciu said.