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 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 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 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.