Supreme Court declares Jamaica Digital ID unconstitutional

13 Apr 2019

The Supreme Court of Jamaica has found Jamaica’s national identification system in violation of the constitution and by unanimous decision declared the entire National Identification and Registration Act (NIRA) void.  In a judgement delivered on 12 April, the court found that mandatory requirement of biometric identification abrogated the right to privacy.

NIRA was enacted in December 2017 and was yet to be operationalised. The law provided for establishment of a central databank that would consolidate identity and demographic information of persons in Jamaica. It had made it a criminal offence for a person not to register under the new law.  The court reviewed aspects of the impugned Act alongside Jamaica’s constitutional history and concluded that migration to digital identification was a significant change to Jamaican society. The new system, they found, went beyond identification of persons to a repository of biographical information that could potentially serve as digital surveillance.

The case had been instituted by a Member of Parliament and People's National Party (PNP) General Secretary Julian Robinson.

Explore the issues

Privacy and data protection are two interrelated Internet governance issues. Data protection is a legal mechanism that ensures privacy. Privacy is usually defined as the right of any citizen to control their own personal information and to decide about it (to disclose information or not). Privacy is a fundamental human right. It is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights conventions. The July 2015 appointment of the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age reflects the rising importance of privacy in global digital policy, and the recognition of the need to address privacy rights issues the the global, as well as national levels.

Broadly speaking, digital signatures are linked to the authentication of individuals on the Internet, which affects many aspects, including jurisdiction, cybercrime, and e-commerce. The use of digital signatures should contribute to building trust on the Internet.


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