Mozilla white paper urges open approach to national biometric ID

Mozilla white paper urges open approach to national biometric ID

The Mozilla Foundation has some strong opinions and recommendations for national biometric ID projects.

The 36-page white paper, “From Openness to Identity,” discusses sustainable development goal (SDG) 16.9 call for universal legal identity, and the relation between legal and digital identity.

In a blog post introducing the report, report Co-author Alice Munyua warns that “the conflation of digital identity as the same as (or an extension of) ‘legal identity,’ especially by the international development community, has led to an often uncritical embrace of digital ID projects.”

Mozilla makes eight recommendations for policy and guardrails around digital ID systems, which are largely drawn on observations from India and Kenya, according to the blog post. Kenya’s Huduma Namba has had a troubled launch and was recently halted by the country’s High Court. The recommendations are based on the foundation’s version of openness: “Openness as in multiplicity of choices,” decentralization, accountability, inclusion, and participation.

Wide ranging consultation, choice of ID rather than a single mandatory credential, prevention of surveillance by design, regulation of the use of national ID by private companies, data protection laws, technical audits, verifiable inclusion and data sharing opt-out for individuals are all urged for digital ID systems “to ensure identity systems put people first.”

Mozilla considers risks related to surveillance in one section, and notes that the World Bank has supported 63 ID projects in the past 15 years in another on developing countries. Systems in Peru and India are contrasted with more open systems, such as British Columbia’s Services Card, which provides different information in different service contexts, and Evernym, uPort, and VeresOne are noted as private sector examples of “decentralized, cryptography-based models” worth examination. Canada’s experimentation with a Decentralized Identifier (DID) controlled by the individual is also pointed out as a model with promise.

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