Neal Ungerleider writes in Fast Company:
Biometrics are the next big thing in government and homeland security. But the recent theft of the personal information of 9 million Israelis living and dead–including the birth parents of adoptees and sensitive health information–could have big ramifications for foreign governments.
Every time a foreigner comes to the United States, their biometric data–fingerprints and photographs–are processed into a massive database called US-VISIT. The service prevents identity fraud and helps find criminals, and countries all over the world have adopted similar systems. Now Israel’s has been hacked, leading to the leak of personal information of nearly every single citizen there (even some dead ones) onto the Internet.
Authorities in the Middle Eastern country announced the arrest on Monday of a suspect responsible for the massive data theft. He’s a contract worker at the Israeli Welfare Ministry who was allegedly engaged in small-scale white collar crimes after-hours and who is accused of stealing Israel’s primary national biometric database in 2006. He had access to the database, which is part of the country’s population registry, through his office.
In the end, the government–and taxpayers–have chosen the efficiency and cost savings of biometric databases over the privacy and civil liberties concerns that experts have raised. But as the Israeli example shows, today’s biometric database could easily become tomorrow’s warez download.