Israel’s Biometric Database Deemed “Harmful” by High Court Judges #UID #Aadhar


JULY 27, 2012 | BY REBECCA BOWE

Cartoon of a man being checked on biometric fe...

Cartoon of a man being checked on biometric features (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Israel, a heated debate is underway about whether Israel’s Interior Ministry will move ahead with the creation of a governmental biometric database containing digital fingerprints and facial photographs, which would be linked to “smart” national ID cards containing microchips. At the heart of the issue is a major concern about privacy: Aggregated personal information invites security breaches, and large databases of biometric information can be honeypots of sensitive data vulnerable to exploitation.

On July 23, Israel’s High Court of Justice held a hearing on a petition filed by civil rights advocates who sought to strike down a law establishing a governmental biometric database and an associated two-year pilot program. The law approving the database, enacted in 2009, met with public resistance until the government backed down and agreed to begin with only the pilot program. The pilot was supposed to be a test for determining whether it was actually necessary to move forward with building the biometric database, but an Interior Ministry decree that sanctioned the program did not actually contain any criteria to measure whether the program succeeded or failed.

While three justices voiced harsh criticism of the database, they didn’t move to cancel the project altogether. Instead, they determined that the pilot program description has to present clear criteria for success and failure, so that it would be conducted as a true test. The ruling requires the Interior Ministry to examine the very necessity of a central database, and to seriously weigh possible alternatives. The court also called for an independent review of the program, and preserved petitioners’ right to return and present their claims against the database and pilot program.

In the course of the hearing, several justices characterized the proposed database as a “harmful” and “extreme” measure. They have good reason to be skittish: Last fall, officials discovered that information in Israel’s primary population database had been hacked in 2006, and the personal records of some 9 million Israelis—both living and dead—were uploaded to the Internet and made freely available. The database contained substantial information including full names, identity numbers, addresses, dates of birth and death, immigration dates and familial relationships. Given this blemished track record, there is naturally a concern that a database that also contained biometric information would meet the same fate.

“Every once in a while, we find the census in .torrent files all over the web,” noted Jonathan Klinger, an attorney who teamed up with Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) lawyer Avner Pinchuk in opposing the biometric database. The petitioners included ACRI, the Movement for Digital Rights, Professor Karin Nahon of the University of Washington and Hebrew University, and Doron Ofek, an information security expert.

“The State in fact accepted the position of the petitioners and the Justices, according to which the order establishing the biometric database is illegal and does not enable an examination of the database’s necessity,” noted Pinchuk, the ACRI attorney. “The Interior Ministry’s intention to establish a database even before this essential flaw is amended demonstrates the hastiness and aggression that have characterized this dangerous project since its inception.”

Israel’s biometric database is just one of several massive governmental identification programsmoving forward at the global level. India is still working toward creating the world’s largest database of irises, fingerprints and facial photos, while Argentina is building a nationwide biometric database of it own. As more of these identity schemes crop up across the world, serious critical examination of these systems is urgently needed.

WHO- contradictions- Gag order on Reproductive Health and Guidance for hormonal contraceptive


Invitees who attended back-to-back World Health Organization (WHO) consultations at the start of February were required to sign confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from talking about the meetings. They had to promise not to divulge anything that was said during the three days — not to colleagues, not to their networks, and especially not to journalists, who might misreport the facts. The world health body explained that journalists often exaggerate, and the UN doesn’t want to induce panic. The media will be informed when WHO holds an additional meeting of UN insiders on February 15, behind closed doors, and prepares a carefully worded public statement for release the next day.

The highly classified topic of discussion wasn’t a nuclear threat or a new virus that can kill within days. It was birth control.

WHO’s gag order is just the latest in a years-long effort by the United Nations’ AIDS apparatus to limit how much women know about possible links between HIV and injectable hormonal contraceptives. The UN appears to have forgotten that its job is not to control women’s sexual and reproductive decisions, but to inform them.

Here’s what the UN knows: In July 2011, researchers led by Renee Heffron at the University of Washington in Seattle presented findings from studies involving 3,790 sero-discordant couples (one HIV-negative and one HIV-positive partner) in east and southern Africa.1 The data compared women who had and women who had not used hormonal contraceptives during the research periods: twice as many HIV-negative hormonal contraceptive users acquired the virus. The rates of transmission from HIV-positive women to their male partners was also two times higher for users of hormonal contraceptives. (The findings focused on injectables because very few study participants took hormonal contraceptives in pill form, making the higher rates of HIV infection and transmission in that group “statistically insignificant.”)

In laypersons’ terms, hormonal contraceptives are products that adjust a woman’s hormone levels to prevent ovulation and pregnancy. In the east and southern African countries where the research was carried out, injectable hormonal contraceptives (“depot medroxyprogesterone acetate,” or DMPA) are the top choice of women who use contraceptives, and the Depo-Provera brand owned by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc. is the most widely used. Despite common side effects, popular features of the method are that one injection lasts three months, and a woman’s sex partner need not know that she is using a contraceptive.

The findings by Heffron and colleagues weren’t definitive; it would take years of additional research to determine beyond a doubt whether or not hormonal contraceptives actually double women’s risks of acquiring or transmitting HIV during unprotected sex. But the research team was concerned enough last July to say: “Our findings argue for policies to counsel women about the potential for increased HIV-1 risk with hormonal contraceptive use, especially injectable DMPA use, and the importance of dual protection with condoms to decrease HIV-1 risk.”

Read Original Artical here

and GUESS WHAT ?, WHO has just declared that “hormonal contraceptives are safe to use for women with or at risk of HIV” based on the meetings discussed below.

WHO upholds guidance on hormonal contraceptive use and HIV

Geneva, 16 February 2012. WHO has concluded, on the advice of its Guidelines Review Committee, that women living with HIV or at high risk of HIV can safely continue to use hormonal contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. The recommendation follows a thorough review of evidence about links between hormonal contraceptive use and HIV acquisition.

Current WHO recommendations in the Medical eligibility criteria for contraceptive use (2009 edition) therefore remain: there are no restrictions on the use of any hormonal contraceptive method for women living with HIV or at high risk of HIV. Couples seeking to prevent both unintended pregnancy and HIV should be strongly advised to use dual protection – condoms and another effective contraceptive method, such as hormonal contraceptives.

Read more here

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