Digital ID technology is developing rapidly. #GoodID to make sure he doesn’t break things



The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated many technological changes – how many of us knew what Zoom was until last spring? The rapidly developed COVID mRNA vaccines are themselves a case study in scientific and technological advancement. Now, efforts in the United States and Europe to demand proof of said vaccination for a number of activities offer a glimpse of the immense opportunities possible as identification evolves – as well as a warning of its potential pitfalls. if it is not done well.

The digital COVID certificate is an example of a digital identification. Governments are increasingly adopting these technologies in order to solve a global problem: the lack of official identification for a billion people around the world. It is a huge barrier to participation in modern society – limiting access to employment, to school and even to engage in basic activities of daily living. Digital IDs can make banking transactions easier and more secure, voting, traveling, obtaining government services, and protecting their social media profiles and interactions.

In the United States, proof, for the moment anyway, is via a small piece of black and white paper – or even just a photo of it – with the details of his often handwritten vaccination record. Looks like an artifact from another era. Compare that to the European Union’s COVID digital certificate. Its scannable QR code can instantly access data from government health systems revealing vaccination status, COVID-19 test results, and even acquired immunity to infection.

But here’s the problem: Digital IDs can also be used to restrict freedoms, increase surveillance, and make it harder to accomplish many of the things they’re meant to facilitate. For example, over the past two years, concerns in India over privacy – and in Kenya over documentation requirements that excluded already marginalized communities – have made national digital ID programs a problem. contentious (indeed, the High Court of Kenya declared the credentials invalid after finding that the government did not adequately protect the privacy of citizens during the deployment). Even in Europe, critics fear that its EU COVID certificates will end up restricting the movement of people in low-income countries who cannot comply with the strict “chain of trust” often involved in establishing digital identities.

More people need a voice to ensure that these systems extend, rather than erode, freedoms and opportunities, but too often the needs, experiences and rights of citizens, residents and consumers are not taken into account in the development of digital identification technologies and policies. These missed opportunities can have serious consequences: digital ID programs that jeopardize privacy, pose security risks, and exclude, marginalize and even endanger users. Governments and businesses that rely on such flawed programs risk data breaches, cyber attacks, economic consequences, and loss of public trust.

This is part of a larger trend over the past decade, with individuals at all levels of society becoming increasingly dependent – and to some extent captive – on digital tools and platforms beyond their control. This digital transformation has received increased urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to virtual interactions. If we are to deliver on the promise of digital ID systems, they must be paired with strong policies and technical architecture that will ensure they expand rather than restrict the rights and freedoms of individuals.

In recent years, a coalition of privacy and security advocates have started working with businesses, governments, and civil society organizations to advance their shared belief in the many benefits of digital IDs and respond to their equally intense concerns about their many risks. They have developed a way to develop digital identifiers so that they live up to a standard called Good ID.

The Good ID approach is about following a framework of practices to design identification programs and policies that allow people to freely and securely engage in the digital world. Digital identifiers should prioritize privacy and security and be treated as protected assets controlled by individuals and protected by law. Good identification also raises the importance of inclusion, transparency and accountability. It promotes ways for individuals to play a major role in managing their own identity. For example, a company in Canada is working with Indigenous communities there to develop secure digital identifiers that can help protect federally guaranteed rights.

The push for Good ID has inspired a global movement that includes local organizations like Namati and Paradigm Initiative, researchers like ITS Rio and the University of Oxford, initiatives like MOSIP, Smart Africa and Women in Identity, institutions like the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, executive philanthropic organizations like the Mozilla Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as my own organization, Omidyar Network. The #GoodID movement has created dialogues while pursuing research and advocacy involving residents, governments, technologists and businesses. Already, this global advocacy effort has influenced national debates in nearly 40 countries. At least 25 countries have adopted elements of Good ID. More importantly, there are now some 1.2 billion people around the world who have access to better identification systems that allow them to engage more fully and securely in their societies, economies and processes. electoral. Yet the work of this community will continue until digital identifiers everywhere become worthy of public trust.

Over the past five years, digital ID has evolved from a new innovation to an increasingly mainstream technology, with far-reaching implications that capture the attention of a wide range of stakeholders. There is no going back, despite the paper vaccination records. Yet digital ID systems are implemented so quickly that the danger of making a mistake – of causing damage – is palpable. That is why the global push to harness sophisticated and cutting edge technologies to create digital identification systems can benefit from a focus on good policies, transparent processes and accountability. The philosophy of the tech community is known to “go fast and break things.” With the #GoodID movement, we can reconcile this momentum to digitize society with the needs, experiences and rights of ordinary citizens.

Summary of the news:

  • Digital ID technology is developing rapidly. #GoodID to make sure he doesn’t break things
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