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Jamaican leaders long on eID promises, short on assurances of fairness

Jamaican leaders long on eID promises, short on assurances of fairness

Obviously, not all nations are ruled by authoritarian governments, but the way many nations build their digital ID programs can make almost anyone paranoid.

A recent article about what is being included and excluded from a digital ID bill in Jamaica does not put the government in a particularly democratic light.

The proposed biometric National Identification System has been a source of debate and consternation for years.

The publication Coda reports on an effort to force holders of a digital ID to disclose within the document biometric data, along with sex assigned at birth. Jamaica’s chill reputation aside, the island nation is no more free of sexual orientation and gender harassment than any other country.

And even as the list of biometric information proposed for the eID grows, concrete steps to secure personal data allegedly are not a significant consideration in the bill. (Even the United Nations has shared personal data, including that of refugees.)

Right now, it would require any new ID to record common demographic data like name, facial image, sex and signature. It would go further, however, demanding the holder’s nationality, occupation, marital status and fingerprint biometrics.

It is possible that more information, all of it valid in most respects, will be required: passport, birth registration, taxpayer number and driving license number. The concern is that stealing all of the information might be easier to accomplish at once, especially if data security is not a top priority for the government.

Surrendering ID information to government agencies including police and businesses such as hotels would be surrendering more personal and less-relevant insights into the holder. They could be subject to discrimination, mistreatment and violence.

People can choose not to get the ID, according to a recent draft of the bill. But they might find themselves even further outside society.

Governments in other nations deploying digital IDs have made owning the document a prerequisite for whole slates of government services. Likewise, businesses hoping to reduce fraud and theft might see conventional IDs as a red flag.

Even in staunchly democratic nations like the United Kingdom, voters are extremely cautious about how eID abuses and missteps could inconvenience some and disenfranchise others.

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