Ben-Gurion Airport Rolls Out Biometric Passport Control

The introduction of gates operated by facial recognition is another step in the implementation of biometric IDs and passports in Israel.

Tomer Appelbaum

Ben-Gurion Airport deployed Wednesday 17 biometric entry gates at its passport control section, Channel 10 reported.

Both Israelis and tourists can opt to use the facial recognition system, rather than waiting in line for standard passport checking. Some gates are adapted for use by children and the disabled, according to Channel 10.

"This is another step in our project to promote improved service to the public," Immigration Authority CEO Amnon Ben-Ami said on Wednesday.

"The stations prove themselves every day, both with the Israeli public and with tourists."

Officials regard the deployment of face recognition at the gates as positive progress towards the nation’s plans to increase take-up of its biometric passports.

Biometrics registration is currently undergoing a two-year pilot phase in Israel with citizens given the option of applying either for regular ID cards and passports or biometric versions. Only around a third of ID card and passport applicants have opted for the biometric option, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Interior Minister Silvan Shalom praised the move Wednesday, noting that it "puts us on par with international service providers." 

The move is the latest in the implementation of the Biometric Database Law, which mandates the collection of fingerprints and facial contours from all Israeli residents for integration in domestic ID cards and national passports.

The same law mandated creation of a biometric government database of that information, to be used for the identification of individuals and to assist in locating individuals suspected of criminal activity by the law enforcement officials.

The law was passed in part to prevent identity theft and the loss, theft and destruction of the flimsy blue ID cards issued by the Interior Ministry, which had spiraled out of control in the decade prior to 2007. It was later revealed that more than half of those requesting new documents had a criminal background.