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Data privacy concerns as Sri Lanka digital ID project awarded to Indian company

Data privacy concerns as Sri Lanka digital ID project awarded to Indian company

Authorities in Sri Lanka are trying to convince citizens that awarding the national digital ID contract to an Indian company would not in any way compromise the security of the biographic and biometrics data that will be captured during the enrollment process.

According to The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka, the contract has already been awarded to Madras Security Printers, a digital documents printing company which also provides digital liquor stickers for the Sri Lankan government.

The company is one of two Indian firms which submitted bids for the contract as of August 12, and the outlet notes that the bid from the other company, Protein Technologies, was disqualified.

The concerns about data security and privacy come not long after some stakeholders in the country had alleged that the many extensions of the tender deadline suggested a plan to favour some bidders.

Public Security Minister Tiran Alles, meanwhile, says that he will not allow the personal data of Sri Lankans to be exposed to use by another country, despite the digital ID card tender being awarded to an overseas supplier. Alles explained that while the Ministry of Technology is carrying out the tender, the Public Security Ministry will have responsibility for the system once it is established, EconomyNext reports.

India is providing considerable financial and technical support to Sri Lanka for the implementation of the Sri Lanka Unique Identification Project (SL-UID). One of the conditions for the assistance was that the digital ID project contract would be awarded to an Indian company.

Early this month, an advance payment of $5.4 million was handed to the Sri Lankan government in the form of a cheque, for the development of the first phase of the project which has to do with developing the digital ID system, after which enrollment will begin.

Defending the award of the contract to the Indian firm, Wajira Abeywardena, a lawmaker who is described as an ally of Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, argued that the move does not portend any risk to the country’s national security system, EconomyNext reports in another article.

Addressing reporters during a recent press conference, the official described such sentiments as “regrettable.” He alludes to the case of British Telecommunications (BT) where concerns were raised when the company was privatized by the British government, but later imposed stricter regulations when it sensed that national security could be compromised. He says Sri Lanka is looking at similar measures.

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