Israeli police are continuing to test the limits of the country’s facial recognition legislation. The law enforcement organization asked the country’s Attorney General for a special exemption for the Jerusalem pride parade that would have allowed the police to deploy facial recognition cameras along the planned parade route.
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara ultimately denied the request for being too broad in scope. The fact that the request was made at all nevertheless drew the ire of Israeli privacy advocates. The country does not currently permit the police use of facial recognition. However, the request would seem to indicate that the police have already procured a functioning facial recognition system that can be deployed at a moment’s notice. A prior report suggested that Corsight had agreed to supply the police with body cameras with biometric capabilities.
In this case, the police argued that facial recognition was necessary to help spot potential threats to the event. Pride organizers throughout the country have been bombarded with death threats in the past few weeks, and the police have already made several arrests in connection with those cases. Death threats nevertheless led to the cancellation of the first pride parade in Netivot.
The police sent out thousands of undercover and uniformed officers to cover pride after their request was denied. The organization has spent the past few months lobbying for a new facial recognition bill that would give the police broad surveillance powers. The controversial bill would allow the police to use facial recognition without a warrant, and to apply the technology to any footage captured from public security cameras.
The Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation voiced its support for the bill in May, though it is yet to be put forward for a vote in the Knesset. The country’s Population and Immigration Authority was recently censured for illegally sharing facial biometric data with another government agency, though that agency was not the Israeli police.
June 3, 2022 – by Eric Weiss