'Foolproof’ Biometric System Prints Duplicate Passports

Boy’s photo appears on his document and his brother’s.

A photograph of Ohad Ozeri, age 10, appears on two of Israel’s new smart passports: his own and that of his younger brother Amitai, age 5. Someone at Israel’s Population Registry made a mistake, issuing two different passports with a picture of the same person. The smart documents of the biometric database, which are being marketed aggressively as the solution to forgery, failed a simple test when there was not even any attempt to defraud.

People who receive smart ID cards and passports are entered into the biometric database, which includes a photograph of their faces and scans of the prints of both index fingers. Children under 12 are photographed only and do not give their fingerprints. Two different photographs of Ohad, which were taken by the Population Registry when his parents applied for the passports, appear on both documents, since the registry clerk can take several photographs and use the best one.

The Population Registry’s information booklet explains: “Each photograph will be sent to a central location for issuing the document, and once the applicant’s identity has been confirmed and all suspicion of duplicate identity or impersonation has been removed, the smart biometric document where the photograph is to appear will be created.”

In other words, before the document is issued, the system is supposed to run a comparison between the applicant’s biometric data and that of everyone else already in the database. The fact that two passports were issued with a picture of the same person shows that the process is far from foolproof.

“The fact that the Interior Ministry issued two passports with the same photograph, and entered the same person into the biometric database under two different identities, shows that the public was sold a bill of goods,” says attorney Jonathan Klinger, the legal adviser of Israel’s Digital Rights Movement, which opposes the biometric database. “The biometric database has no ability to prevent forgery or impersonation. It cannot spot an error made by an employee or deliberate deception, nor can it solve the problem it was supposedly created to fix.”

A Population Registry spokesperson commented, “We received the details of the incident, and the subject will be looked into.”

Uzi Barak