Eyes Wide Shut: The challenge of humanitarian biometrics


Biometrics, for those of you who haven’t spent the last 10 years swearing at the automated passport gates at Heathrow, is the use of human measurements for identification. The most familiar biometrics are fingerprints, but the computer-powered scanning of eyes and faces is being implemented in a growing range of contexts. The origins of modern biometrics lies in the identification of criminals, but it was the war on terror that turned biometrics into the $13.8 billion industry it is today.

As a result the technology has leapt ahead in recent years – and leapt into some surprising places. You might use your fingerprint to access your smartphone, but everybody gets fingerprinted now, including schoolchildren. Facebook can recognise you even if it can’t see your face, but even music festival organisers have decided that facial recognition technology is a good bet. Despite longstanding concerns about privacy, biometrics clearly have their uses, and a growing range of sectors have been implementing them – including the humanitarian industry.

Read more.

National Identity’ and Data Capture Activities in Nigeria

This Day Live

As government agencies (MDAs) began to migrate from manual records to semi-automated and electronic processing, with the advent of biometric identification and smart card technology, the quest for data capture activities grew along with various kinds of upgrades, notably ‘Government Identity Tokens’, issued by agencies with the ‘sole responsibility’- Driver’s License,  (FRSC), in 2009, Permanent Voters Card, (INEC), 2014, Tax Identification Card, (JTB/FIRS), in 2014, Pension Card, (PenCom), in 2013, Residency Cards, e-Passport, (Nigeria Immigration Service), in 2006, National Identity Cards, (NIMC),in 2014, Bank Verification Number Card, by CBN/NIBSS, etc.

As is evident, these are function-specific identity cards by function specific institutions, whether private or public. They do not fit other purpose or purposes, aside from the one that led to its creation. To assume that they do so is to be uncharitably imprudent. They do not ‘cover’ the entire population, (except the national identity card), they just define specific subsets of the population and talk only of eligibility for a service or something- each of these functional identification schemes involve ‘Identity Management’ in one form or the other. It is therefore not difficult to see how (and when it began) MDAs and private sector institutions rationally justify the unending duplication of data capture activities and silos of databases that has bedeviled Nigeria’s recent fiscal history.  For anyone, on that basis, to describe all the ‘Government Identity Tokens’ as ‘National IDs’ is, to say the least, absurd, even strange, uncharitable, laughable and forgive me, perhaps pedestrian. It is preposterous to suggest, on that basis, that the national unique identification scheme in Nigeria is no longer relevant. I strongly disagree and do not subscribe either to any form of private sector monopoly around any form of identification scheme- national or functional.

Read more.

Kenya: Issue ID Cards to Stateless Kenyans

The Star

Recent news on issues of citizenship, statelessness and marginalisation have featured Nubian, Makonde, Shona, Somali and Arab communities in Kenya. These are groups with historical or ethnic ties to other countries who have either been rendered stateless or are in danger of becoming stateless.

International treaties proclaim citizenship as a basic right, though we have 10 million stateless people globally. The fact that they are not recognised by any state as citizens exposes them to many challenges, ranging from denial of basic rights to access to employment, housing, education, and healthcare.

Read more.

Become a Volunteer for the Statelessness Report 2016

July 30, 2015

Statelessness Report 2016 is looking for country experts and editorial assistants for a country-by-country global report. This work is voluntary and will be concentrated in the last quarter of 2015 and the first half of 2016. You are invited to apply either as a pair or individually.
The Report: The Statelessness Report 2016 will bring together peer-reviewed country-reports by experts from all over the world to examine how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) may affect stateless persons. Country chapters will be drafted according to a template developed by ASAP and the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, and the report’s conceptual framework will be based on a briefing paper drafted by the Institute and ASAP, which will be reviewed by experts at a Chatham House event. If this project interests you, but you don’t see yourself in either of these roles, note that we are also seeking people to help in other ways. Email ‘more information’ to statelessnessreport@gmail.com to learn more, or to suggest a way in which you can help us.
Read more.

New Identification System: Committee Members Commissioned

Cameroon Tribune

They were installed yesterday in Yaounde by the Delegate General for National Security, Martin Mbarga Nguélé.Members of the committee charged with the supervision of the operations for the putting in place of the new security identification system in Cameroon have been installed into their functions. The 12-man committee with the Delegate General for National Security as President, was commissioned yesterday August 12, 2015 in Yaounde by Martin Mbarga Nguélé who urged them to all buckle down to work for the realization of government’s objective of putting in place a totally reformed, secured and adapted identification system.

The Delegate General for National Security reminded the committee members of the strategic and technical importance of their missions defined by the Decision signed by the Secretary General at the Presidency creating the committee. The committee members are expected to define the options and strategic orientations, validate the technical options, carry out periodic evaluation of works, and take corrective measures amongst others.

Read more.

Personal Stories

Sign up for CRAI Mailing List

* = required field
Select what you're interested in: