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Monday, 11 December 2017

Talking About #NIDS

According to the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ), "Your voters' ID is used as a de facto national ID (and in some cases internationally) accepted."  Rumour has it that Jamaica has the best electoral identification system in the world.  Rumour also has it that the system is in high demand but use is strangled by Copyright issues.  A Voters’ List is published twice yearly to confirm eligibility to vote and is a document subject to public scrutiny.  What better system of identification, verification, validation could you ask for here in Jamaica? 

In addition to reaching the age of 18 years, as part of the registration procedures, demographic, biographic and biometric as well as other personal data is collected.  As we have discovered, we already have that verified data for 96% of our adult population.  Information from the EOJ's website indicates there is a requirement to:
  1. Visit the registration centre in person
  2. Fill out the requite form submitting demographic (and biographic) data
  3. Be photographed
  4. Be finger-printed
  5. EOJ representatives and political party’s scrutineers physically visit your stated address to verify
  6. Cross-check fingerprints to prevent multiple registrations.
This system sure sounds better than the National Identification System (NIDS) where ascertaining true identify is concerned.  This foolproof system that has been in place since 1994 ought to be able to protect you against identity theft and fraud, but obviously not.  There are numerous reports of the dead voting, multiple voting by same individuals and, now, with the introduction of a NIDS, it must mean that the EOJ’s globally recognised system has failed miserably.

Alternate #NIDSfacts
The communications supporting NIDS positions the System as a silver bullet that will slay the dragon of crime, fraud, identity theft and all of Jamaica’s evils.  However, NIDS is a tool, to be used and abused; a means to an end; not the end in itself.  NIDS is subject to the same misgivings as any other tool in the digital world.  It is subject to hacking, cannot prevent identity theft, cannot prevent fraud and certainly cannot prevent crime.  
If Joint Forces of Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) can’t do it, if National Days of Prayer, Fasting and Repentance can’t do it; how can NIDS?

Based on my research, and reliable information from my contacts in the USA and Canada, neither countries have a national identification system.  The idea has been vigorously resisted in any form by citizens of both countries.

Extracts from "National Identity Cards, Biometrics and the Consumer: 
Displacing the Personal from the Person"
Produced by Canada's Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Source: https://www.priv.gc.ca/
We often compare Jamaica to the United States of America (USA).  NIDS and the National Identification Number (NIN), for some reason, is being likened to the USA’s Social Security Number (SSN), which, by the way; is not recognised as a national identity in the USA.  That prominence is given to their passport which is not compulsory nor does everyone has one.    

In Canada, it is their driver’s license that is used nationally and persons that do not have one are issued an ID card, which is not free by the way.  Should a cardholder qualify for a driver’s license, the card is cancelled.  Every citizen or legal resident is required to have a Social Insurance Number (SIN).
Samples of the SSN (USA); SIN (Canada) and TRN (Jamaica)

Both the SSN and the SIN are used for social services, employment and taxation; much like our National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and Tax Registration Number (TRN).  There is no requirement for biometrics to obtain the cards per se.  The card has a name, signature and a 9-digit number; no photo. 
I fail to see why NIDS is being likened to the SSN.  In my opinion, that likeness is being highlighted to appeal to our foreign-mindedness to be like America and Americans; exploiting the basic human need for recognition.

Screenshot of readers' comments on a crime story
Source: Jamaica Observer
Notwithstanding, even with the experience of the SSN system, all the resources of the CIA, FBI, NSA and all the other 3-letter acronyms, the USA still has its fair share of border problems, crime, scamming, fraud, illegal immigrants. The Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates that 12.5 million “illegal aliens” are currently on American soil; a 5-percent burden on its total population.  Between asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants, Canada too is losing control of its borders.  

Much like how persons have managed to use fake SSNs, evade the Department of Homeland Security with all its high-tech resources, NIDS too, can be evaded or abused.  And that is the grandmother of all #NIDSfacts.  

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