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Malaysia’s biometric registry project faces sharp criticism

Malaysia’s biometric registry project faces sharp criticism

The Malaysian government says it is planning to introduce the National Digital Identification (NDI) system – a biometric registry database – in 2022. The database is intended to store the personal data and biometrics of all Malaysian citizens.

The move is being met with sharp criticism from opposition leaders and some members of parliament, according to Eurasia Review.

Apart from fears over the security and privacy of personal data, the plan has been criticized for its allegedly huge costs and lack of any explanation of why similar approaches failed in the past.

There are also concerns that the biometric registry plan in Malaysia is reminiscent of a CCTV surveillance system used by the neighboring Thai government in three of its provinces that have experienced violence related to an insurgency by Thai Malays.

Details concerning the digital ID system project are contained in a document called the Twelfth Malaysian Plan, Eurasia Review states, adding that the database will contain citizens’ information such as their full names, aliases, as well as face and fingerprint biometrics.

The plan notes that the data will be linked to government departments, ministries and services including the taxation and law offices, the social welfare department, the election commission, the national higher education fund corporation, the labour department, the ministry of health, vehicle licensing service, immigration and the courts, Eurasia Review outlines.

The criticism notwithstanding, the Malaysian government posits in the plan that the digital ID project will facilitate and streamline access to a wide range of government services online, and also help in curbing fraud.

In December 2020, the country’s government said it was going to make the protection of citizens’ data a priority in its implementation of the national digital ID framework.

The new plan is scheduled to begin after the Personal Data Protection Act is due to be amended by Parliament to clarify certain sections on data privacy and rights protection, according to the Eurasia Review report.

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