April 12, 2024

NYU Report Shows Digital IDs Can Lead To Severe And Irreversible Human Rights Violations


The following report was published by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice last June 2022.

The authors, who have been involved in the policy discussions about digital IDs question the model of digital IDs being promoted by governments today which aims to “provide individuals with a ‘transactional’ or ‘economic’ identity by establishing their uniqueness”.

The authors say that these IDs “exacerbate pre-existing forms of exclusion and discrimination in public and private services. The use of new technologies may lead to new forms of harm, including biometric exclusion, discrimination, and the many harms associated with surveillance capitalism”. They also assert that the benefits of digital ID systems are not yet clearly established and there is still a question about whether they are truly necessary.

The authors also put on spotlight the World Bank’s (WB) Identification for Development (ID4D) which has played a major role in digital ID systems. According to the authors, the WB has “manufactured consensus in the newly framed field of ‘identification for development’. By defining the problem as one of an ‘invisible billion’ who lack official identity, and presenting digital ID systems as inclusion and rights-enhancing solutions, it has provided legitimacy and mandate for these systems.”

Aside from raising the alarm about the use of digital ID systems, the authors also propose practical suggestions for addressing the issues they raised.

Editor’s Note: This 84-page document details the many concerns relating to the implementation of digital ID systems. Did governments even assess the pros and cons of digital ID systems, or are they just following the directives of the World Bank?

We must also ask: who benefits from the implementation of digital ID systems? Who has access to citizen data?

For those who wish to better understand the implications of digital IDs, we encourage you to read this article by Suzanne Burdick.

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