Being able to assert who we are and what claims we have can be empowering. But identity checks are increasingly conducted and required, both with and without our knowledge.
Modern identity systems aren't just about 'checking papers'. Increasingly,
- our identity is becoming our password that unlocks our devices and grants us access to our rights;
- our identity is also the profile developed by others, binding us to our recorded characteristics and behaviours and conduct and activities; and
- the identity assigned to us is increasingly a proverbial weight around our necks that defines us and is used to constrain.
Governments and industry are building identity systems to support their needs to administer, govern, and profit. In turn, they are being used to facilitate targeting, profiling and surveillance. Despite their rhetoric, they are not designed for us and our empowerment. These systems are designed to target and exclude.
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In 2017, a website run by the Jharkhand Directorate of Social Security leaked the personal details of over.1 million Aadhaar subscribers, most of them old age pensioners who had enabled automatic benefits payment into their bank accounts. Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identification number issued
Research from the Brennan Center shows minorities are primarily affected by new laws that restrict citizens access to voting through ID requirement, increased distance to polling station, inconvenient opening hours and hidden costs.
In 2012, London Royal Free, Barnet, and Chase Farm hospitals agreed to provide Google's DeepMind subsidiary with access to an estimated 1.6 million NHS patient records, including full names and medical histories.
In 2015, the Swedish startup hub Epicenter began offering employees microchip implants that unlock doors, operate printers, and pay for food and drink.
Cases of people being denied healthcare as they fail to provide an Aadhaar number have already started emerging. A 28-year old domestic worker, for instance, had to be hospitalised for a blood transfusion after she had an abortion with an unqualified local physician.
In December 2017, it was revealed that the large telco Bharti Airtel made use of Aadhaar-linked eKYC (electronic Know Your Customer) to open bank accounts for their customers without their knowledge or consent.
In February 2018 the Home Office gave the Yorkshire Police 250 scanners that use a smartphone app to run mobile fingerprint checks against the UK's criminal fingerprint and biometrics database (IDENT1) and the Immigration and Asylum Biometrics System (IABS).
In February 2019, an anonymous tip-off to Computer Sweden revealed that a database containing recordings of 170,000 hours of calls made to the Vårdguiden 1177 non-emergency healthcare advice line was left without encryption or password protection on an open web server provided by Voice Integrate
In Ireland benefits claimants are expected to register for a Public Services Card (PSC) in order to access benefits. PSC users are expected to have their photographs taken in department offices, which is then digitally captured along with their signature.