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How to spend World Bank money on biometrics: a World Bank guide

How to spend World Bank money on biometrics: a World Bank guide
 

The World Bank Group’s Identification for Development (ID4D) division has published a ‘Primer on Biometrics for ID Systems’ (full PDF) as a reference document for practitioners, civil society organizations, development partners and other stakeholders involved in ID systems.

The abstract describes it as guide to the “responsible use of biometric recognition in official or government-recognized identification (ID) systems, such as national IDs, civil registration, population registers, and others.”

Biometix CEO Dr. Ted Dunstone, who is also the founder of both BixeLab and the Biometrics Institute, authored the reference document.

The primer hopes to shed light on the technologies and systems due to the “proprietary nature of most biometric technology” obscuring information. It brings together experiences from countries such as Uganda and regulatory insight from the UK.

“It also takes into account existing literature, international conventions, and norms and principles. It is based on evolving international good practice, as understood by ID4D,” notes the preamble.

The primer has extensive technical coverage in simple terms that leads to practical guidance on what to look out for, avoid or question in any potential technologies being investigated. To that end, it makes a useful guide to anybody looking into biometrics.

There is guidance on how to deploy systems, transfer data and conduct data protection impact assessments as part of integration.

The Legal Considerations chapter covers both “enablers” which allow for the deployment of biometrics and “safeguards” to protect citizens. It looks at consent and institutional oversight and includes a paragraph of inclusion, with notes on avoiding technical biometric exclusion in the deployment section.

A large FAQs section helps present the information and guidance in a different format, tackling topics such as open-source and vendor lock-in as well as procurement, with links to additional support such as the World Bank’s ‘Procurement Guide and Checklist for Digital Identification Systems.’

Civil society organizations have recently written an open letter urging organizations such as the World Bank to stop promoting unsafe digital ID models.

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