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UK Government calls for input on digital identity

The UK Government through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has opened consultations on digital identity. In a call for evidence, the department is seeking to explore four questions namely: the need and problems with digital identity; criteria for trust; the role of government; and the role of the private sector. 

Outlining the problems people face while trying to identify themselves using paper documentation, the consultation seeks to find if digital ID is a panacea and if not, what other options exist. Other questions include the role of players in the digital identity field in building trust and how these players should be governed.

A pilot scheme on digital verification using British passport data will be launched in partnership with companies who currently provide digital identity services to Government. It will help people speed up their applications for private services such as credit card application by allowing organisations to digitally check their identity using British passport data. The pilot does not envisage a centralised identity database. Instead every individual will have control of their personal data. This way, individuals can reuse previous identities in future. 

 

Government digital ID to reach 5 billion by 2024

Governments are expected to have issued 5 billion digital identity credentials by 2024 according to a new report on mobile biometric technologies, digital identity apps, and civic digital identity by Juniper Research. This is a rise of 150% from the current 1.7 billion. Among the reasons for this rise is that countries which do not have legacy systems are developing brand new digital ID systems. For example, by 2022 Malawi is expected to have 22 million new digital ID enrolments while Nigeria will lead Africa with 420 million people. In Europe and North America, the digital ID revolution is led by financial service providers. Mobile systems will continue to influence digital ID and many digital ID schemes will leverage on mobile single sign-on. The report foresees less systems being built on blockchain and self sovereign identity. A Goode Intelligence report predicted that digital identity and verification will be a $15 billion market by 2024.

Fujitsu launches blockchain digital identity solution

Japanese technology company Fujitsu Laboratories has launched a blockchain based digital identity exchange technology. In addition to enabling businesses and individuals conducting transactions online to confirm the identities of other parties, the technology will also gauge the “trustworthiness” of credentials. This will be through mutual evaluation of transacting parties, examination of historical data and networks of past transactions to produce a rating and reputation of each party. The rating and reputation data will be in a distributed ledger,  assuring its security. However, the system will only disclose necessary information. The company also described the technology as user friendly with graphics to offer visualisations of user relationships.

Fujitsu has in the recent past developed blockchain applications such as technology for inter bank settlement and a platform for ready to go blockchain applications.

Fujitsu launches blockchain digital identity solution

Japanese technology company Fujitsu Laboratories has launched a blockchain based digital identity exchange technology. In addition to enabling businesses and individuals conducting transactions online to confirm the identities of other parties, the technology will also gauge the “trustworthiness” of credentials. This will be through mutual evaluation of transacting parties, examination of historical data and networks of past transactions to produce a rating and reputation of each party. The rating and reputation data will be in a distributed ledger,  assuring its security. However, the system will only disclose necessary information. The company also described the technology as user friendly with graphics to offer visualisations of user relationships.

Fujitsu has in the recent past developed blockchain applications such as technology for inter bank settlement and a platform for ready to go blockchain applications.

NIST publishes new digital identity guidelines

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published new guidelines on digital identities, after a year-long consultation process. The guidelines define digital identity as the unique representation of a subject engaged in an online transaction. They supercede previous guidelines that promoted measures such as regular changing of passwords and promote appropriate business and privacy risk management practices. Dubbed the 800-63-3, the guidelines reconcept online identification with two processes; identity proofing and authentication proofing.

 

They also recognise the existence of federated identity systems and encourage minimal dissemination of identifying information. They promote pseudonymous access to government digital services whenever possible. Federated identity providers are instead required to support a range options for querying data for example by asserting whether an individual is older than a certain age instead of seeking their full date of birth.  

 

The guidelines only allow the use of biometrics for authentication when strongly bound to a physical authenticator.The guidelines apply to agencies using federal systems over a network, credential service providers, verifiers and relying parties.

US visa applicants to disclose social media accounts

The US State Department of State (DoS) is now requiring social media details from most visa applicants. Unlike previous practice where only applicants that are flagged for additional vetting were asked for social media information, almost all visa applicants are now required to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses, and phone numbers. This follows the application of the March 2018 regulation that only exempts certain diplomatic and official visa applicants from disclosing their social media history.

According to reports, the US DoS State Department is reported to have explained the requirement as a way to improve screenings, to protect US citizens while promoting legitimate travel. It is estimated that approximately 14.6 million people apply for US visas annually.

The new visa application form names social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube and provides spaces for additional platforms not listed. Applicants are also required to list social media accounts and emails they have used in the previous five years.

Civil rights groups questioned the efficacy of social media vetting, saying that it could have a chilling effect on online freedom of expression online.

Ghana mass registration for digital national identification ongoing

The National Identification Authority of Ghana began a mass registration programme at the end of April 2019. The programme is currently ongoing in the Greater Accra region and is scheduled to run till June 2019.

Ghana introduced electronic chip based national identification known as Ghana Card in 2017. For registration, Ghanaians present documents such as birth certificates, driving licences and passports. Their biometric features such as fingerprints and face are captured, and they are later issued with the card. The Ghana card is envisaged to be the primary registration document and it is mandatory for government and private services such as passport application, opening of bank accounts, property registration and education certificates.

Ghana captures biometrics of children from the age of six. Children from the age of 15 receive Ghana card. Previous mass registration exercises have involved enrolment of learners.

The current exercise has faced challenges from inefficiencies in registration processes, night registrations and partial registrations. Opposition politicians have also decried the exclusion of voters cards as registration documents. They said that would give unfair advantage to government strongholds in the upcoming 2020 elections.

Nigeria rolls out national digital identification

Nigeria is implementing a presidential directive requiring harmonisation of all data held in government registries such as driving licences, ID cards and passports. Government officials reported that the body charged with administration of the identification data, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC),  has already registered that 37 million Nigerians. The harmonisation also includes registration of SIM cards where mobile network operators are collecting biometric data of their subscribers for verification.

While many government and private agencies collect personal data, Nigeria does not yet have a privacy law. The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Information, Communication and Technology, Lanre Osibona, announced that plans were underway to enact a data protection framework.

Under the current harmonisation of identification of identification programme, Nigerians whose biometrics have been captured are issued with a National Identification Number (NIN).

Senegal launches digital health platform

Senegal’s Agency for Universal Health Coverage (CMU) has launched a digital health information management platform, SUNUCMU.com. The platform is currently handling digital payments. It also integrates social welfare programmes and enables friends and relatives to contribute to a patient’s healthcare costs.

In the future, the programme will be scaled to cover the 3,500 across the country. A mobile app is also being developed while by September, biometric kits will be available in healthcare centres to authenticate those seeking services.

San Fransisco bans facial recognition software

San  Fransisco city, United States has banned use of facial recognition technology by police and other government departments. The move is contained in the Acquisition of Surveillance Technology Code which creates a rights based approach to surveillance technology through mechanisms such as prior approval before purchase of surveillance software, surveillance impact assessments, surveillance audits and surveillance policies for each department operating surveillance software.

Facial recognition software is being increasingly adopted for policing around the world. Rights groups such as American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have raised concern about bias and inaccuracies with most facial recognition software, particularly against people of colour and women.

San Francisco's  ban does not affect application of facial recognition in spaces under the federal government such as airports. It received support from the San Francisco Police Department which according to reports is internally auditing use of surveillance technology. A local rights group, Stop Crime SF opposed the law, citing public safety concerns. They advised on a moratorium as they expect improvements in facial recognition technology to address current bias concerns.

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