Identity and Privacy

Identity card programmes not only cost governments billions, but also give rise to significant human rights problems and potential miscarriages of justice.

Nationwide ID programmes are established for a variety of reasons – race, politics and religion often drive their deployment. Studies of national ID card programmes have consistently found that certain ethic groups are disproportionately targeted for ID checks by the police. During the Rwandan genocide, ID cards designating their holders as Tutsis cost thousands of people their lives.

An ID card enables disparate identifying information about a person that is stored in different databases to be easily linked and analysed through data mining techniques. This creates a significant privacy vulnerability, especially given the fact that government usually outsource the administration of ID programmes to unaccountable private companies. 

ID cards are also becoming ‘smarter’. For example, biometrics identification is widely used today. Biometrics is the identification or verification of someone's identity on the basis of physiological or behavioral characteristics. It involves comparing a previously captured unique characteristic of a person to a new sample provided by the person. This information is used to authenticate or verify that a person is who they say they are.