LONDON, Sept 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Britain set out its plans this week for a digital identity system aimed at making it easier for people to access public services and buy age-restricted goods – whether registering with a new doctor or buying a bottle of wine.
But the British government’s latest plans come as digital rights campaigners worldwide warn about the privacy concerns posed by identification technology, which allows biometric data such as fingerprints to be accessed online.
Here is what you need to know about Britain’s digital identity plans:
WHAT IS A DIGITAL ID?
A digital identity is an electronic form of identification that can be used to prove an individual’s identity online.
Existing digital identity systems usually link biometric data such as fingerprints and iris scans to a unique digital code, allowing for remote identification that can be accessed anywhere.
Proponents say digital identity can help streamline private transactions, reducing the paperwork needed to buy a property for example, and allow greater and quicker access to government services.
More than one billion people globally have no way of proving their identity, according to the World Bank, which experts say excludes them from basic services such as education and healthcare.
WHAT DID THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT SAY ABOUT ITS PLANS?
The British government said this week it wanted to “update existing laws on identity-checking to enable digital identity to be used as widely as possible” across the country, following a call for evidence published on its website.
“We want to make it easier for people to prove their identity securely online so transactions can become even quicker – it has the potential to add billions to our economy,” Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said in a statement.
The government said it would start consultations on developing legislation, adding that policies would be based on six principles, including privacy, transparency and inclusivity.
No details on how the system would work were provided, but digital rights experts suggested it could take the form of digital ID cards that would for example allow online stores to check shoppers’ age.
HOW HAS THE BRITISH PLAN BEEN RECEIVED?
Reaction to the announcement has been mixed, with business groups and some politicians praising the initiative and rights groups calling for caution.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said a digital identity system could help unlock economic growth while techUK, an industry trade group, said the preliminary plan was welcome though lacking in detail.
A 2019 study by the McKinsey Global Institute calculated that by increasing access to services and easing transactions, digital IDs could unlock economic value equivalent to 3 to 13% of GDP in 2030.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair told the BBC it was “common sense” to move towards digital IDs as part of efforts to fight coronavirus as the government would want to keep a record of who had been vaccinated.
Matthew Rice of the Open Rights Group said the system would only work if users trust it to protect their personal data, while Tom Fisher of Privacy International said it was crucial not to cut off people who lacked skills or access to the internet.
“The behaviour of the digital identity industry also remains a concern, and we have to be sure that they are prevented from exploiting our data and using it for other purposes,” Fisher told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
WHAT OTHER DIGITAL ID SYSTEMS EXIST?
Digital identity systems are already in use in many countries, from Norway to Estonia, with some raising concerns from rights activists.
Launched in 2009 to streamline welfare payments and reduce wastage in public spending, India’s Aadhaar, the world’s biggest biometric database, is now used for everything from school enrolments to tax filings.
Yet, researchers say large numbers of homeless and transgender people are excluded and denied essential services, and the system has raised concerns about privacy, data safety, and possible misuse for profiling or surveillance.
Kenya’s digital ID scheme Huduma Namba was given the go ahead by the country’s high court in January, following a challenge by rights groups which argued it violated privacy and should be outlawed.
The judges ruled that the system, which gives people access to public services, could continue, as long as the government brought in stronger regulations and did not use it to collect citizens’ DNA and geo-location data.
(Writing by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Helen Popper.
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Labor Day Weekend was marred by an uptick in shootings that ended with 64 Americans becoming victims of gun violence in cities across the country.
At least 10 people were shot dead and just over six dozen were were caught in gun-related violence as it gripped at least three major cities this weekend.
‘The amount of violence over the holiday weekend is beyond unacceptable,’ Brandon Scott, president of the Baltimore City Council,’ wrote in an email.
The city of Baltimore this weekend saw two residents shot dead, one person fatally stabbed and 12 others shot.
Further west, Chicago recorded 51 victims and eight who were shot dead, including an eight-year-old girl was killed inside a parked car on Monday.
In New York City, a six-year-old boy was shot during a Caribbean festival in Brooklyn just three hours before a 62-year-old man was killed while walking his dogs.
Reports from the Windy City on Monday revealed that eight people were killed and 43 Chicago residents were wounded in gun violence.
In the most recent incident, an eight-year-old girl was killed and two adults were severely wounded while driving on the South Side.
The shooting occurred shortly before 6 p.m.
in the Canaryville neighborhood, Chicago Police Chief of Operations Brian McDermott said.
The girl was with her mother and two other adults in a Subaru SUV when they stopped at a red light at 47th Street and Union Avenue, with a Dodge Charger behind them, police said.
Once the stoplight turned green, authorities noted that someone in the Charger then opened fire, striking the child, a 31-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman.
The Charger subsequently made a U-turn and fled the area.
Authorities in Chicago, Illinois, recorded 51 shootings over Labor Day Weekend that resulted in the death of eight people
On Monday, an eight-year-old girl was shot dead while inside a parked car on the city’s South Side
McDermott said the child was taken to Comer Children´s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
‘I stand before you, saddened and angered, that another child has lost their life in senseless gun violence in the city of Chicago,’ he told reporters at the scene Monday night.
Chicago fire officials said the man and woman were taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center in critical condition, with each suffering a gunshot wound to the back.
The mother of the slain child was also wounded in the crash, McDermott said.
She was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center in good condition.
The Cook County medical examiner´s office hasn´t released details regarding the child’s death
An record of a listed CBS Chicago showed seven shootings took place on Sunday
In another instance, a four-year-old boy and an 18-year-woman are recovering in a hospital on Monday after being shot in the Gresham neighborhood.
The pair was shot just after midnight on Saturday when someone driving in a Dodge Challenger opened fire.
The young boy was struck in the leg, while the woman was hit in the back.
Both were taken to local medical centers and are expected to recovered.
Authorities don’t believe either victim was the intended target of the shooting.
Also on Saturday, the Chicago Police Department said they shot dead a man who lunged at officers with a knife.
‘My girlfriend, she heard some yelling, and then she heard some police sirens – ‘Let’s go!
Let’s go! Run,’ Charlie Chung told CBS Chicago.
‘I just heard some loud noises. It was like loud and rapid,’ he added.
The sound of gunfire came around 1.40am when officers responded to reports that an unidentified man was stabbed. The man was transported to a local hospital, but his condition is unknown,
Officers at the scene began searching for a suspect that was located nearly two blocks away.
Authorities said the suspect was armed with a knife and refused to drop the weapon when officers asked.
Officers deployed a Taser gun at the suspect, but it had little affect.
Then, authorities said the suspect lunged at a female officer and began stabbing her several times.
‘He then grabbed the female sergeant and began stabbing the female sergeant with a long butcher knife,’ said Supt.
Officers opened fire on the suspect and the man was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.
In Baltimore, three were shot dead including young food server Melissa Hefty.
Brad McCarthy, the owner of Maryland Blue Crab House in Dundalk, confirmed that Hefty, was one of the victims. She worked as a server at his establishment for two years.
‘She was just always happy and had a lot of customers here that loved her,’ said McCarthy.
‘It is definitely tragic that that had to go down.’
Authorities discovered Hefty around 5.30am on Saturday while responding to a report of a shooting near the the 2500 block of W. Lexington St, The Baltimore Sun reports.
Melissa Hefty (pictured) was among three other Baltimore, Maryland residents killed this weekend
McCarthy: Hefty (pictured) was just always happy and had a lot of customers here that loved her’
She had a gunshot wound in the head and was pronounced dead at the scene.
A man with a gunshot wound was also found at the scene and treated at a local hospital.
Additionally, a 28-year-old man was fatally stabbed in the chest and neck before he died at a local hospital.
The third homicide victim was shot dead around 10pm on Saturday.
He and a second man were found by police while suffering from gunshot wounds.
Medica transported the men to a medical center, where one succumbed to his injuries and died.
And a 39-year-old man who was shot just after midnight on Monday is in critical condition.
The victim was a delivery driver who was shot in the head and robbed while completing a food order.
In addition to the three killed, 10 others were wounded.
New York City
New York saw a concerning spike in shootings over Labor Day Weekend, with at least 10 people shot as the surge in gun violence continues.
In one instance, a 62-year-old Brooklyn resident was shot dead on Monday morning while walking his dogs near his home.
Just two hours before that, a six-year-old boy and his mother were among three others who were shot during a festival in the same borough.
Meanwhile, surveillance footage from the New York Police Department showed a shootout on August 25 inside the lobby of Marlboro Houses in the Gravesend neighborhood.