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Frantisek Trampota, 31 May 2016, Child in a refugee camp, From Wikimedia Commons

ID2020 Summit: Towards “Good” Digital Identity.

In short

  • A plan to create a pathway to Identity to reach sustainable development goals of the UN. Identity is a prerequisite for most of these goals.
  • Ethical ways for user centric Identity to co-exist with sovereign Identity goals. How do we cross national, corporate and other borders?
  • Practical pilot projects funded by ID2020 were demonstrated. This puts a practical bent on a policy discussion.
  • The urgency of implementation versus the perfection of the system. Usually addressed by what is possible to implement, especially during these days of more vulnerable people on the move or dumped in refugee camps for decades.
  • Success for ID2020 may help allay the migration crisis and concomitant political malaise that many developed nations are facing.


New York ID card (IDNYC)

Ethics of Good Digital Identity

  • Sovereign ID systems like the one from Denmark tracks citizens from cradle to grave and helps them engage with their government. The national ID system helps with healthcare, social welfare and with civil registries. However, even though citizens may trust their government, this trust can be lost if the information is lost or stolen or the original purpose subverted. Hence the data has to be secured and protection against misuse strong.
  • This brings us to an organisation like the Omdiyar network who are a philanthropic investment firm. Their view is to help governments and civil institutions build ecosystems that incorporate privacy by design, security, openness and ethical technology addressing some of the problems mentioned above.
  • For the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees) the solution that fits all use cases (like the national ID system) is neither relevant nor desirable. For example, they would focus on a vaccination scheme rather than a civil registry for births and deaths.
  • Suppress the scope of data collection as well as keep it directly out of the reach of the administrators of the data, especially if it can be hijacked by subsequent administrations that may have different aims- examples of misuse: data collected by Denmark during the Nazi era to identify jews for targeted extermination; demand by the current US Federal administration for the data collected by IDNY for identifying people to target for deportation.

Ethical Digital Identity as Our Shared Responsibility

  • Money need to be spent on forensic analysis of hacks
  • A vulnerable population sometimes needs more protection that the rest since the potential for harm is much more. This includes exposure to human traffickers and coyotes in case the identity PII is exposed.

Standards on Digital Identity

How Can National ID Systems Complement a User-Centric Approach to Identity?

  • The right to remain anonymous without probable cause and perhaps even a warrant.
  • The use of the term Self-Sovereign Identity is anathema to many governments. Since many UN agencies have to operate with the approval of governments, the language has to be changed to User-centric Identity, User-Managed Identity or some other equivalent phrase.
  • The word “claims” vs. the word “attributes” for user data. How this fits in with user managed identity. Kim Cameron was firmly for claims.
  • Identity as human rights versus Identity as property rights. We already touched upon this in the section dealing with intrinsic and extrinsic rights.
Aerial view of Zaatari Refugee Camp 2013

Workshop 2: Extending Digital Identity to Vulnerable Populations



All things blockchain, with a focus on New York City and events

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