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Identification Conferences and Identity Gaps

Anyone doubting the speed of innovation in biometric ID should attend a conference on Identification.  A major conference, Connect:ID,  is taking place March 17-20 in Washington shortly after the 2014 Winter Biometrics Summit, March 3 – 6 in Miami. I recently participated in the ASPCA’s 10th Government Forum on Electronic Identity in Cambodia, as well as the 2012 Biometrics Consortium Conference in Tampa.  These meetings always have a heavy commercial presence, both speakers from industry and presentations of new technology and shiny new products.  They also include academics and government representatives, as clients and also as speakers, sharing experience and approaches to common identity-related issues.

Privacy and the Biometric Revolution

What exactly is privacy? As Bob Gellman points out in his new CGD paper, the concept changes from place to place. Scandinavian countries have strict privacy laws, but tax returns are public; the United States has no broad privacy laws, but tax returns are shield from public scrutiny. In some European countries, nude sunbathing is common; in some Muslim countries, women typically appear in public wearing garments that cover the body from head to feet.  That’s all to say that privacy—and efforts to protect it—depend on context.

The Eyes Have It! Development and the Biometrics Revolution

The “identity gap” is large, but it’s closing. Over the past 10 years, developing countries from Afghanistan to Zambia—and the donors that support them—have begun to focus on identity systems. Some have sought to create or extend national identification to cover large populations that previously could not exercise basic rights or access services due to a lack of official documentation. Others have reformed government and NGO programs by creating robust identification to improve quality, increase accessibility and eliminate fraud.

India Leading the Way on Biometric ID—and Now Replacing Subsidies with Cash

The Washington Post reported yesterday that India will, starting Jan 1st in 51 districts, pay cash directly into the accounts of poor families as it begins unraveling its convoluted web of food, fuel and other subsidies. India’s been toying with this idea for a while, so it’s good news that it’ll finally kick-off in the New Year. Many others will be watching.

Pakistan’s “Pocket of Productivity”: Empowerment through Identification

This is a joint post with Julia Clark.

Pakistan’s ahead of the pack.

Why? It’s National Database and Registration Authority—NADRA, the agency in charge of national identification—recently announced that it will begin issuing identity cards to orphans with unknown parentage; those without birth certificates or other documentation. This move effectively ensures citizenship rights for children who would otherwise have been excluded under regulations that require proof of nationality and parental lineage to obtain an ID card.

“No One Gets Past a Raptor” The 2012 Biometrics Consortium Conference: Tampa

Even with global sales around $5 billion, the biometrics industry is surprisingly clubby.  Most participants at the 2012 Biometrics Consortium Conference I attended recently seemed to know each other.  Most were from the US, but some  came from Europe, and from India and other developing countries.  Their backgrounds were diverse:  academics, entrepreneurs, engineers, lawyers, police, security and military personnel. And, of course, sales departments!

Identification for Development, US Election Edition

This is a joint post with Julia Clark

On the surface, it’s hard to see how requiring a photo ID for elections could be problematic. What’s the big deal? Nearly everyone we know has at least one photo ID—a driver’s license, state ID, or passport. Plus, preventing double or illegitimate voting is a favorable goal in any democracy. Who could argue with a law that promises to protect electoral integrity?

Technology in the Tropics: a Visit to Bangalore

Bangalore in September. Beautiful weather, luscious gardens, and the din of metro construction. But most importantly (for our purposes, at least), Bangalore is headquarters to the world’s largest biometric identification project. Every 24 hours, the Unique Identification Authority of India’s data center performs 100 trillion matches to ensure that each of the day’s 1 million new enrollees is distinct from the 200 million people already identified. This number crunching will only increase as the program scales to cover India’s 1.2 billion people.

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