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Skeptics of World Bank’s ID4D want more transparency and harm reduction for digital IDs

Skeptics of World Bank’s ID4D want more transparency and harm reduction for digital IDs

Dozens of civil society organizations and individual human rights advocates say digital ID programs “regularly” erode human rights. Signatories to an open letter are urging global organizations including the World Bank to stop activities that promote unsafe digital ID models.

They say there is “mounting evidence” that harms are not the exception to the rule. “Many” digital ID systems are “arbitrarily de-linked from legal status,” according to the letter.

The systems use digitized biometric data, which endangers human rights, as does the practice of relying on a “‘single source of truth’ model” for multiple public and private services.

Deployments are not being subjected to even minimal scrutiny, they say, including cost-benefits analyses examining potential harms.

The signers of the letters call out the World Bank and its ID for Development, or ID4D, initiative. Officials within the initiative have “shown a wiliness to engage with civil society, this dialogue has not led to meaningful changes.”

Specifically, the letter calls for the World Bank and its donors to pay for an independent assessment of their own role in promoting digital ID systems.

They also need to consider evidence that their activities promote human rights violations related to IDs, and then stop the activities.

More transparency in this regard is needed within the World Bank, too. While they are at it, officials should make themselves open to “sustained, high-level engagement” with civil society and rights advocates.

And finally, the authors demand, officials have to boost spending and increase resources for the kinds of studies, evaluations and analyses that uncover systems that “ignore or intentionally exploit political, social and economic dynamics.”

ID4D publishes annual reports, as well as papers on specific issues and topics related to digital identity for development.

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