Sat | Dec 4, 2021

Public defender says NIDS data trove overbearing

Published:Saturday | April 3, 2021 | 12:02 AMEdmond Campbell - Senior Staff Reporter
Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry.

Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry has described as “an intrusion on a citizen’s personal space” the “massive” amount of biographic data that is required to receive a national identification number and card under the proposed National Identification System (NIDS) law.

In her submission on Wednesday to a joint select committee reviewing the NIDS Act, Harrison Henry highlighted 21 identifiers in the bill, including three bits of biometric data, that might be required to sign on to NIDS.

She questioned whether that amount of data, potentially to be collected and stored, was necessary to establish the unique identity of an individual.

“When all the material collected on all of us is put together; biometric data, biographic data – that national database – would have stored key aspects or benchmarks on an individual’s entire life and that individual’s life story.

“The material required to be enrolled reconstructs an individual’s life history from birth to death, from primary and secondary sources,” a concerned public defender outlined.

Harrison Henry contended that her office had formed the view that the amount of data to be collected in order to participate in the NIDS would result in the trespassing and intrusion in a citizen’s personal space for the purpose “merely to assign each individual with a unique number and a card bearing that number”.

The public defender told the committee that the collection of “this massive amount of data” had to be justified and proportionate.

Harrison Henry said there was a lack of harmony between Section 11 (1) of the legislation and Section 11 (2).

Section 11(1) of the proposed law sets out the 21 pieces of biographic data required for enrolment, including biometric data.

“The proposed Section 11 suggests that the 21 unique identifiers are mandatory or at least a condition precedent to being enrolled as Section 11(2) says if the applicant is unable to supply one or more of the items of identity information listed in 11 (1) (ie. the 21 unique identifiers), then enrolment is discretionary,” she said.

The Government has said that NIDS would become the primary source for identity assurance and verification. It also points out that NIDS would result in improved governance and management of social, economic, and security programmes.

Harrison Henry said that her office supported the recommendation by the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship that it should be crafted in law that no person should be denied service from the public or private sector if they are not enrolled with NIDS.

However, committee Chairman Delroy Chuck said that such a measure could not be enforced in the private sector.

The public defender insisted, however, that no one should be penalised or denied access to service for not enrolling with NIDS.