The Politics of Biometric Standards: The Case of Israel Biometric Project

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3 Scopus citations


In 2017, after years of public debate, Israel ratified a national biometric project consisting of two initiatives: issuing of biometric ID cards and passports to all Israeli citizens and establishment of a centralized database for storing their bodily information. Design and implementation of a preceding four-year pilot study were accompanied by extensive standardization. Discourse and standard analyses of 33 official state documents–from legal records to performance reports–published by Israeli authorities during the pilot study, unravel the politics of biometric standards employed as part of this project. Biometric standards were used to establish hierarchies between individuals and groups by defining particular bodies as ‘biometrically ineligible.’ These individuals are mostly members of underprivileged and marginalized social groups. Biometric standards were also constructed discursively as scientific and objective to legitimize such discriminatory treatment. Israeli authorities used standards strategically, both as infrastructural elements and as a discursive means. As infrastructural elements, biometric standards were employed, inter alia, to achieve predetermined results and confirm the project’s success. As a discursive means, Israeli authorities actively adopted a ‘discourse of standardization’ to construct an objective and fair image to the project. Standardization of people–namely, quantification of lives, bodies and experiences–is inherently discriminatory because it necessarily results in the creation of categories and hierarchies between biometrically in/eligible bodies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-119
Number of pages22
JournalScience as Culture
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2019


  • Infrastructure
  • biometrics
  • classification
  • discrimination
  • standardization
  • surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Health(social science)
  • Cultural Studies
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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