Modern ID systems: Watching a global identity crisis unfold

by | Sep 16, 2022 | World

OPINIONOPINION, On International Identity Day, it is time to question whether technology-based identity systems are actually inclusive.“Show me your papers.” We associate those four words with 20th-century state oppression and the separation of citizens from “others” – where an identity card or number was about facilitating survival, not civic participation. Modern biometric and digital wallet-based identity systems have been presented as an opportunity to create more inclusion, enable civic participation and facilitate easier access to healthcare and public services.
Yet on International Identity Day, we are seeing these modern, technology-driven ID systems – adopted by a growing number of countries – continue to facilitate exclusion and surveillance, while exacerbating insecurity and vulnerability for communities that are already among the most marginalised.
Take Uganda, where huge administrative issues with ID rollout have led to 54,000 elderly people being unable to access life-saving social protection grants. Or India, where people lost access to vital food security programmes during the COVID-19 pandemic and lost reproductive health care because of problems with Aadhaar, India’s enormous biometric ID system.
Linking everything you do back to a single unique identifier is an absolute gift to those looking to track, exploit and manipulate you — whether that is government security agencies or private companies.
There is also the ever-present risk of a data breach. In the Philippines, a vulnerability in the COVID-19 relief portal was reported to have led to the leak of about 300,000 identity documents and 200,000 files and images of medical documents. In Pakista …

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