Tuesday, April 23, 2024

No “unethical” use of digital IDs, Ishmael says


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Minister of Industry, Innovation, Science & Technology, Davidson Ishmael reaffirmed on Thursday that there was a singular purpose for the new Trident identification card – to make the lives of citizens easier.

Ishmael dismissed assertions made in a circulating WhatsApp voice note that claimed the government intended to use the digital features of the new ID card to spy on citizens.

He said the new ID was a passive card, and it used the same chip and pin technology found in bank and credit cards.

“It contains no power source, so unless it is inserted into a reader or tapped on a terminal, it cannot transmit anything, it cannot do anything on its own,” Ishmael said in an official media release.

“The QR code or the Machine-Readable Zone can only be read if you present them to someone to be read – which is actually why they are on the back of the card, not the front. Therefore, the card holder is in full control.”

Ishmael said the digital ID card was not linked in any way “to purported technology allegedly contained within COVID-19 vaccines”, and the government had no intention of using it for unethical activities.

“Sometimes we need to step back and understand what identification has done for Barbados,” he said. “There are a number of other islands in the Caribbean that have never had a proper ID card system.

“Some of us take it for granted that we can walk into a bank, or any business, or government office and just by showing an ID card prove who we are. That does not happen in other places. You have to get someone to vouch for you – you have no simple way of proving who you are.”

“Our government is now building on that system that we have had in place for 40 years and which almost everyone in the country has agreed needed to be upgraded. We are taking it to the next level.”

Ishmael said the government was confident it was the right time to introduce the new digital IDs because of a PriceWaterhouseCoopers survey released a few days ago that showed 87 per cent of people in the Caribbean were fully in favour of government providing digital services and incorporating new technologies to improve them.

But, he said, citizens had the option of using the digital features of the new Trident ID card, and the government was trying to essentially achieve two things.

“The Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) is replacing the current ID card with a new, more secure and digitally capable ID card, and on top of that, we are introducing a mobile digital ID,” he said.

“Certainly, there will be a new ID card. However, you can use your new ID card in exactly the same way you have always used your ID card.

“Our job as a government is to bring you new ways of doing things that are easier, faster, and safer with the digital ID, and once you are comfortable, you can onboard to the mobile ID at any time – the choice is yours.”

Ishmael said citizens and residents did not have to pay to replace the current laminated ID with the Trident version – but if the new ID was lost, there will be cost for a replacement.

“The same thing happens right now with our current ID card,” he said. “Indeed, the cost of the replacement has increased, and whilst the pricing for this is set by the Electoral and Boundaries Commission, I believe this reflects the cost of the new card and the processing that is required to invalidate the old card and issue a new card.”



  1. It would be useful to see the text of the privacy concern raised in the whatsapp message which led to a response by Minister Ishmael. A bigger concern raised by a Central Bank Digital Custody in addition to privacy concerns is the risk of money held on an account being blocked on political grounds. We saw this in Canada during the truckers boycott when dissidents had their bank accounts blocked by the state, Blockchain technology is designed to address the issues of privacy and denial of access to personal money in the form of cryptocurrency,


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