Sat | Nov 27, 2021

NIDS data harvesting may infringe privacy rights – academic

Published:Monday | April 12, 2021 | 12:18 AM

Dean of the Faculty of Law at The University of West Indies, Mona, Dr Shazeeda Ali, has suggested that the proposed National Identification System (NIDS) could cause interference with some privacy rights of Jamaicans.

In a recent submission to the joint select committee considering the National Identification and Registration Act, 2020, Ali said that citing the need for administrative efficiency to justify the collection of certain biometric data was generally not a strong enough reason.

She argued that the Jamaican Constitution protects the individual’s right to privacy of one’s person, property, private family life, home, and communication.

Such interference might occur through, for example, the collection of fingerprints and informational privacy concerns stemming from the storage and processing of electronic data, the Faculty of Law dean noted.

“To be permissible, these interferences must be demonstrably justifiable in a democratic society, and so we need to have an assessment of whether the system that will be created by the bill and its operationalisation is proportionate to the interference that may be involved,” she reasoned

Andre Sheckleford, lecturer at the Faculty of Law, UWI, Mona, who also made a presentation, raised concern in relation to transaction data under NIDS.


Sheckleford said that the system would have the effect of generating a form of metadata each time someone carried out a transaction that engaged the national ID card.

The lecturer noted that the bill recognised the production of such data but there was a lack of control in terms of access or use of that data.

Sheckleford explained that someone might have conducted business somewhere that resulted in the creation of an electronic record. That record would show that the individual accessed a certain business, perhaps to carry out a particular transaction.

“And you can have such a series of events being generated on the system, and such transactional metadata has been recognised, the world over, as being capable, when analysed, of allowing people to draw very precise conclusions about an individual’s private life,” Sheckleford continued.

In this regard, he asserted that the bill appeared to lack protection on transactional metadata.

He also pointed out that there was vagueness regarding the items of information that were required for a particular individual “that is, when and why certain information is required and what entities, public or private, may require the presentation of a national ID card or number”.