Privacy Concerns over Biometric ID Programs Across the World

In our lifetime, technological advancements have aided in creating vast networking capabilities, making services easier to utilize and giving billions of people opportunities they might not have had otherwise. But with technology, whether existing or emerging, the more it is utilized by people, the easier it becomes to exploit.

Since 9/11, countries across the world have been attempting to implement different kinds of national biometric ID programs. One can assume that the overarching goal is public and digital safety as well as ease of access to government services, but often these programs face backlash. The concerns raised by citizens signal a new dilemma in the world today: is the government trying to help protect them or collect unprecedented amounts of personal data? Or both?

Kenya Forced to Cease Biometric ID Operations

In 2019, the country of Kenya imposed a national biometric identity program with the intent of making services easier for its citizens to use. The program required all Kenyan citizens or foreign residents to bring current government documentation and then have photographs and fingerprints taken for logging. In addition, people were issued a corresponding government ID number to be used for voting, taxes, and other activities.

This act has been challenged by civil rights groups in the country, citing that the Kenyan government did not have any regulations put in place for this massive data collection operation, including a secure infrastructure to protect the information. Additionally, making it a requirement would potentially disenfranchise minorities in the country who may have difficulties obtaining proper government documentation.

The Kenyan courts have recently forced the government to temporarily cease operations.

Mandatory National IDs in Other Countries

In a few other countries, the biometric programs introduced have not been without controversy. While each of these example programs vary in the methods or rationale, ultimately the argument over privacy concerns is the same.

  • Argentina: In 2011, Argentina’s Federal System of Biometric Identification (SIBIOS) program was introduced by executive degree. By 2012, this program began amassing fingerprints and photos of citizens including newborns, whose faces and fingerprints were being digitally scanned often within a day of their birth. Privacy groups in the country have attempted to highlight the concerns over time, but there has been little to no public debate on the subject.
  • France: Reissued in 2016 by government degree, this national biometric ID system and database is poised to hold over 60 million biometric records. By October of 2019, the French government announced plans to deploy facial recognition for enrollment into the national ID program. While the government supports this initiative, some citizens are concerned that the facial ID program will lead to real-time facial recognition which would be in violation with GDPR that “forbids the use of facial recognition without explicit user consent.”
  • India: Introduced in 2016, this national ID program was initially created to improve efficiency and promote greater social inclusion. It is the largest biometric database with more than 1.14 billion unique records. The program was challenged in India’s Supreme Court in 2018 over privacy concerns and citizens are petitioning for the destruction of records, fearing they’ve been compromised.

Privacy and Control of Your Sensitive Data

The main objection is that government-imposed biometric ID programs create unnecessary risk for the citizens, but with Secure Data’s hardware-encrypted devices, the privacy and control of your sensitive data is in your hands. Our SecureDrive and SecureUSB BT devices are FIPS 140-2 Level 3 Validated for the highest levels of security to protect your data and documents. Operating system independent, the devices work with all computers with a USB port and users can even authenticate with facial recognition or fingerprints to access the data.

To learn more about how to protect your digital privacy, contact the experts at Secure Data today at 1-800-875-3230.