Digital IDs Are More Dangerous Than You Think

from Wired

THERE ARE SIGNIFICANT, real-world benefits to having an accepted and recognized identity. That’s why the concept of a digital identity is being pursued around the world, from Australia to India. From airports to health records systems, technologists and policy makers with good intentions are digitizing our identities, making modern life more efficient and streamlined.

Governments seek to digitize their citizens in an effort to universalize government services, while the banking, travel, and insurance industries aim to create more seamless processes for their products and services. But this isn’t just about efficiency and market share. In places like Syria and Jordan, refugees are often displaced without an identity. Giving them proof of who they are can improve their settlement, financial security, and job prospects in foreign lands.

But as someone who has tracked the advantages and perils of technology for human rights over the past ten years, I am nevertheless convinced that digital ID, writ large, poses one of the gravest risks to human rights of any technology that we have encountered. Worse, we are rushing headlong into a future where new technologies will converge to make this risk much more severe.

For starters, we are building near-perfect facial recognition technology and other identifiers, from the human gait to breath to iris. Biometric databases are being set up in such a way that these individual identifiers are centralized, insecure, and opaque. Then there is the capacity for geo-location of identifiers—that is, the tracking of digital “you”—in real time. A constant feed of insecure data from the Internet of Things may well connect you (and your identity) to other identities and nodes on the network without your consent.

In addition, systems using artificial intelligence and machine learning are used to make decisions based on our identities. Those systems are often built on data that can reinforce bias and discrimination, and are wielded without sufficient transparency or human review. Ultimately, social credit systems, such as those that are currently being developed in China, will be based on digital ID, thereby enabling or disabling our full and free participation in society.

By developing these technologies in parallel with systems for a digital ID, we are not simply establishing an identity to access basic social services. Digital IDs will become necessary to function in a connected digital world. This has not escaped the attention of authoritarian regimes. Already, they are working to splinter the internet, collect and localize data, and impose regimes of surveillance and control. Digital ID systems, as they are being developed today, are ripe for exploitation and abuse, to the detriment of our freedoms and democracies.

We can make another choice. In the design and deployment of Digital ID systems, we must advocate for the principles of data minimization, decentralization, consent, and limited access that reinforce our fundamental rights.

More here.

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10 Responses to Digital IDs Are More Dangerous Than You Think

  1. Silky B. October 9, 2018 at 10:39 am #

    The “Digital Age” is one that is relatively new and it is taking control. The question of ethics in some of the new practices that are arising. Digital ID’s and the safety concerns behind it are becoming more prominent. I feel a digital ID is the start to “The New Technological Revolution”. We already had technological revolutions various times in the past couple of years. I believe the biggest one is when the first iPhone dropped and it changed our society. The introduction of digital Id does not sit right with me. I feel that someone’s identity is not something that needs to be digitized. We are just making it easier for hackers to steal identities. Anything that is digitized is liable to get hacked. That is the hard truth. No matter how safe a browser might be or how safe the government says it is, nothing is 100 percent.
    This is what worries me the most about the whole digitized ID. We also need to draw the line somewhere. Because technology knows no boundaries, we have to set them. Personal identifiers should not be something that can be accessed digitally.

  2. Jaden Tate October 11, 2018 at 3:32 pm #

    At this point, the world has become too tech-savvy. No a days you are able to be tracked and spied on through your phone, as well as spied on by the new Amazon Alexa’s in your home. The government most likely knows everything about most people’s life just from the everyday things that we use. Now that Digital ID is even a thought blows my mind. I wonder if those people who come up with these ideas read about the things that have been going on recently. For example, Facebook has been hacked for the second time and influencing more people than the first time. Facebook has billions of people using this site with their personal information on it. With Facebook being hacked a second time it makes you wonder if they are actually able to keep your data safe from hackers. The Digital ID is a disaster waiting to happen. Everywhere you walk there will be a camera on every corner, that is able to detect who you are by your ear, or hair, or the way you walk. This is a whole new level of invasion of privacy. One example of Digital ID that came to mind was Fast and the Furious 7. Though it is a movie, it presented us with Digital ID, but instead, they called it Gods Eye. Gods Eye was a satellite that was able to find a person wherever they were in a matter of seconds. Once Gods Eye found you, it was able to pull up multiple things about you such as where you live, what kind of car you drive, your last occupation and many more things. Throughout the movie, people were fighting over who could get their hands on the device that could control Gods Eye because it gave you some of the most significant power in the world. In my eyes, the movie did a great job depicting what could happen if something like Gods Eye was made possible. Countries would be fighting over who would get it and how one could make a better version of it. As for the people being watched, there is literally nowhere you can hide and nothing you can do to stop yourself from being observed. Gods Eye hacked in to all of the local cameras to find where the person looking for was last seen. It hacked into things such as ATM cameras, store surveillance, and streetlights. With Digital ID and “Gods Eye” there would be no such thing as privacy which would be inflicting our Fourth Amendment rights. The one good thing that I can see the Digital ID being useful for is in the sense of catching criminals. For example, Amber Alert would no longer be necessary because you would be able to find the criminal as soon as they pass some sort of running camera. This goes along with keeping people out such as terrorists with a record of being known for doing very harmful things or having terrorism as a background of theirs. Digital ID would be right in the sense of catching criminals but horrible in the sense of not having privacy and one day maybe getting hacked and ALL of our information getting into the wrong hands.

  3. Gabrielle Bram October 12, 2018 at 10:09 am #

    Technology has been rapidly improving throughout the world in the past few years, and Digital ID’s can change the world. I use technology everyday whether it is for school, work, or for personal use there is a need to use technology. I can see both the positive and negatives of Digital ID’s and how it could be violating citizens’ rights. The article discusses how near perfect facial recognition is developed and being used to create biometric databases. These data bases could violate rights but can also give the government and certain companies more information about people. I think Digital ID’s could have a positive impact on society if the technology is not abused and used for the wrong reasons. Having a lot of information about individuals through biometric databases could be dangerous and cause citizens to feel like their freedom is being violated.
    I read an article “World’s Largest Digital ID Operator Faces Suit for Data Leaks” by Upmanyu Trivedi and it was about world’s largest biometric database in India leaking data. The database had biometric data for over 1.1 billion people and the database did not have adequate security measures. This digital biometric database was mentioned in the other article and it discussed how the system would be an easy target for hacking. Hackers are a main concern of Digital ID’s and could leak information of billions of people. Overall, Digital ID’s are a good concept but need to be perfected before they are really used throughout the world.

  4. Petar Micevski October 12, 2018 at 4:12 pm #

    Digital IDs are important for organization. It is essential that we digitalize ourselves if we want to achieve efficiency. The only concern that arises is when people use that stored information for malicious purposes. That is why cybersecurity is of vital importance. However, people don’t want to protect it because they have not had the opportunity to explore the technical aspect of the internet. In 2017, only 30,000 cybersecurity majors were hired despite the fact that 2 million spots were open. The reason for this is because people aren’t being educated on cybersecurity because it isn’t that popular among students. The most interesting thing to me is how much we use the internet and how little we understand it. Technology is only going to become more digital which is why more people need to be aware of how the internet works so more people can protect it properly. Once people understand the technicalities behind the internet, they can learn to protect it. While I was reading up on cybersecurity, I learned that a job that cybersecurity majors can obtain is an ethical hacker. This is a hacker that is hired by companies to test out their firewalls and other security protocols. What the ethical hacker does is try to get into their system and show them where their soft spots are in the firewall. The amazing thing about being an ethical hacker is the creativity involved in such a job. Sometimes, these hackers can even crack a password only using the textbox used to log in. When I say password, I don’t mean that they guess it right. What I really mean is that they manipulate the source code from the html file and use that to gain entry. If Digital IDs start becoming a thing, that would be another piece of information these hackers could use against us. Something as simple as a little bit of manipulation could potentially ruin your reputation. That is why Digital IDs aren’t the concern. The real concern is the encryption behind your information.

  5. Douglas Tkac October 12, 2018 at 8:08 pm #

    This article contains all of the paranoia that I’ve felt over the last couple of years due to the development of digital IDs. At the moment, I can’t think of a concrete reason as to why precisely a company would need vitals, such as our fingerprints or our faces, and that should present an immediate problem. We simply don’t know when, where, or how this information is stored and/or used, and that itself is super anxious.

    The case of everyone having a personal “score” in China especially gives me the creeps. Besides the idea being copied STRAIGHT from an episode of Black Mirror (Episode 1, Season 3 if someone is intrigued to watch it), this is such a huge compromise to their national security. For them to track your personal score, public places and squares will be outfitted with so many cameras, all of which equipped with facial recognition. The installation would leave their citizens with no place to run or hide. It will concern me more as to what will dictate a “bad” score in the end, and the fact that the score can be edited at any time or place and could hinder a person’s basic rights heavily because of the score. Some people might say “Well, how different is it from a credit score”? and they might have a slight point. Having a credit score is essential for buying and utilizing luxuries, such as buying a new car or buying your first home. Note that these our luxuries, however, and do not have to necessarily be utilized in order to live your day-to-day life. With China using the scores to limit travel from inside and outside their countries, using it to affect children’s schooling, and literally prohibiting you from earning certain jobs regardless of qualification, its easy to see which is worse.

    A surprising example that this article refused to mention was the up-and-coming addition of microchip IDs. Microchip IDs are getting used mainly in the workplace, where workers voluntarily (for now) sign up and have a microchip injected into them. This microchip has a plethora of benefits, such as buying food at the workplace without use of payment, or using the microchip as an access card to get to certain areas in the workplace. However, this is also a problem in so many ways. What if employers make it mandatory to get the microchip to receive the job? What exactly can the microchip do? What information does it possess?

    The advancement of technology is a curse and a blessing. Let us just hope and pray Big Brother isn’t watching our every move.

  6. Eyal Kleiman October 16, 2018 at 1:39 pm #

    The article makes a great point that having a digital ID may be beneficial for someone who is a refugee and may not have all necessary documentation to identify themselves. However, in first-world countries like the U.S., facial recognition technology and other identifiers are becoming more frequently available. “Biometric databases are being set up in such a way that these individual identifiers are centralized, insecure, and opaque.” Another problem with having a digital ID in the first-world is having applications, especially social media applications, which track your location. Some of these applications, like Snapchat, even track your location in real time. I have this setting enabled so my friends can see my location on a map. It worries me however, that there are more than likely servers full of data with people’s locations and biometric identifiers that could potentially be ripe for exploitation. Sometimes I think about deleting all forms of social media that I have and try to remove myself from the digital grid but it is almost necessary now to have a good social presence online for potential employers to see. This has to do with representing oneself and one’s brand. Without this digital ID, one has less presence in the world, unless, they are like completely capable of succeeding independently.

  7. Anthony Ciaralli October 18, 2018 at 6:32 pm #

    In today’s society, everything is about time and efficiency. This is because of the rapid advances in technology over the last couple of years. Technology has become an everyday occurrence. Currently, technology that is being looked into is creating a digital ID for everyone. These ID’s could be useful and possible make daily life more efficient. This would give personal identities, health records, and many more. With instant access to these records it could make everyday life run smoothly, allowing the user to have instant access to this information.
    A major issue that comes out of technology is privacy. With someones information being digitized will it be easy for information to be stolen. It also questions will this affect our human rights. With this digital ID it could potential track people and collect data off of them. The government and private parties could potential use this to track and have unwanted data on people. I think digital ID could potentially be beneficial as long as there is no unnecessary data tracking.

  8. Jonathan Rodrigues October 19, 2018 at 10:03 pm #

    Honestly, I feel rather impartial about Digital ID’s. There are two sides to the argument and this is the type of technology that we can’t find a common ground on. This technology either exists or it doesn’t. Granted everybody wants their privacy, but what falls within the boundaries of our privacy is an enormous grey area. And on the other hand, we live in a world where there are some very sick people that wish nothing but harm on the United States. Technology like this and facial recognition could save thousands of lives. Technology like this could stop the next 9/11 and that’s the very truth of it. But the fact is, Digital Identification, Digital Tracking and near-perfect Facial Recognition is out there and it’s going to be used by governments and other agencies (foreign and domestic) whether we like it or not. I, personally, would rather be informed that it’s being used on me/with me than to be kept in the dark on something this big.

  9. Abigail Johnson October 20, 2018 at 2:39 pm #

    This article discusses the benefits and drawbacks in having a technology-based identification system. This means that everyone’s identity is to be digitally formatted to be able to accessed from all over the world. This is fairly similar to how when you are convicted of a crime and arrested, your picture identification is in the database in order to help Law Enforcement convict you of another crime if they believe you are responsible. However, having an identification database with every person’s digital identity is an attempt to add more security to things like bank accounts and social security. Even though this benefits, as the article states, industries such as banking, traveling, and insurance, this added efficiency may not be worth losing your identity over. The article also brings up the newly developed science of facial recognition, whether be to use a facial filter on snapchat, or to unlock your Xbox One or iPhoneX. Many people are still hesitant about this facial recognition technology, as it does go against our privacy rights. Even though one-day Digital IDs will become a necessity for everyone, it still can make people hesitant to give up their identity. Facial recognition is a fairly new technology that people do not know about, which makes them hesitant to trust the technology. Facial recognition is a system in which dozens of microscopic lasers scan your face, and the lasers themselves make up the person’s physical facial features. This then is transferred to the computer, and then the computer uses the laser image to create a digital face, to best match the human it originally came from. Even though this technology is new, people are already using it in areas like surveillance. For example, if you have a business or storefront, it is ideal to have security cameras throughout where customers go, in order to prevent crimes from occurring like stealing goods. After installing the facial recognition cameras, if someone did steal an item from your store, you would be able to go back to the camera footage, and the software would then use the facial recognition system to tell you who this person is, in order to report him to the Police. Overall, Digital ID’s are a new way for people to be able to prove who they are, as well as a new way for companies to be more efficient then ever before. But, things like facial recognition do violate privacy of the people.

  10. Paul Lee October 22, 2018 at 1:09 am #

    In this day of age, our technology development is evolving at such at a rapid pace that we tend to forget about our protection and rights. First off, anyone knows that our internet, computers, or any technology connected to the internet can be hacked in some shape or form. We need more regulations and restriction on the internet. Humans need restrictions on what the government can do and companies too. We, human beings, have the right to privacy.

    Now to read this article about digital IDs are becoming more apparent in the world, it is very alarming. The author is correct with the fact that as the world uses digital IDs more, it will soon be necessary to digital IDs to function in this digital world or in reality itself. Our social security, health, and private information would be linked to this ID that the government and companies could view. This article also highlights the use of digital ID linked with Social Credit Systems in China. I recently read that article and it is a scary technology as it seems to govern Chinese citizen’s life. What they can financially purchase to where they can travel, it is an intimidating factor that I do not think these citizens realize. A very straightforward maneuver from the Chinese government to gain control over their citizens.

    Also, companies already have customers or users operate face recognition or biometrics off their phone or computers. I do not doubt that companies will find a way to use digital IDs in America if it were to be established. Again, it would be very horrifying to acknowledge that these companies are able to see my information at real time. Yet, the alternatives or solutions by Mr. Solomon are impressive and insightful. There were two concrete points that Mr. Solomon states. First off, I agree that we, human beings, need to have the right to deny the use of our digital IDs at certain times or demand that we have one. Secondly, in my opinion, the most essential, is the idea of having a strong digital security to protect all our sensitive information. Human data linked to a digital ID is a very serious matter that should not be hacked so easily. The Aadhaar program is one that needs cybersecurity and strict regulations to be effective. I am happy that the Supreme Court of Inda is trying to put regulations or restrict the Aadhaar. It is needed for the vast program that could lead to dangerous results without a watchful eye. The world needs to understand that the world is delving deeper and deeper into the digital world. We must never forget to protect our basic human rights and especially our privacy. As it is effortless to hack into someone’s personal information and use it for corrupt handling.

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