Israel Wants to Collect Prisoners' Voice Samples

New bill calls for installation of smart prison telephony system that would prevent call card theft. The state wants to database the samples in the same way it collects fingerprints.

David Bachar

Under the guise of improving conditions for prisoners by installing a smart telephone system into prisons, the Justice Ministry is promoting a bill that will enable prison authorities to take voice samples from prisoners by force.

The bill, which ostensibly deals with the installation of a sophisticated public phone system, includes a clause that will enable the Prisons Service to expand its biometric database, which current holds data such as fingerprints and mug shots, with voice samples.

According to the draft bill circulated by Deputy Attorney General Raz Nazri, warders will have the "possibility [of taking voice samples], by force in the case of refusal, on condition that the person is warned before force is used."

The bill clarifies that the Prisons Service cannot use voice samples taken by force for improving the operation of the new telephony system, but only to supplement its prisoner database.

The new system, known as Seagull, is able to identify voices, thus ensuring that only the prisoner who bought the calling card makes the call and preventing card theft.

The system is already operational in the country's prisons, though it hasn't been legally approved by the state. The proposed bill would approve the collection and storage of voice samples in an administrative process similar to that for the collection of fingerprints.