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Israeli Ministry of Transportation Engages in Unlawful Processing of Biometric Data

Firm News / Jun 01, 2020

Article written by Haim Ravia, Dotan Hammer and Adi Shoval

A recent report published by the Israeli State Comptroller reveals suspected violations of Israeli privacy laws committed by the Ministry of Transportation and other official agencies.

The report uncovers that the Ministry of Transportation transformed its driving license photo database to a biometric database without proper legal authority from the legislature. Moreover, data from that database was unlawfully disclosed to other state authorities in violation of the obligations to provide notice and transparency to data subjects. The report indicates that processing biometric data of over 4.5 million drivers without lawful authority severely risks the constitutional right to privacy of Israelis.

Additionally, the report reveals that the Ministry of Transportation regularly discloses data from the database to the police, prime minister’s office, tax authorities, and others, without properly notifying the data subjects. Since the processing of biometric data was never authorized, such disclosures do not adhere to customary requirements regarding biometric information. These other agencies were also found to violate the requirement to register their databases under the Israeli Protection of Privacy Law of 1981.

The report also found other databases formed without legal basis, such as the “Rav-Kav” database for public transportation passenger fare passes containing photos of 7.7 million data subject (of which 1 million are minors); the foreign workers database containing fingerprints and facial photos of about 55,000 foreign workers; and the database of the Welfare and Employment Office containing fingerprints of about 250,000 unemployed individuals.

CLICK HERE to read the State Comptroller’s report (in Hebrew).