A coalition of several civil society groups known as ‘NIDS Focus’ on Friday, June 10 unveiled three videos aimed at educating the public about their rights under the National Identification System (NIDS).
Co-led by Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) and the SlashRoots Foundation, the coalition said that as the government rolls out the NIDS, it is quintessential for Jamaicans to know their rights in order to make an informed decision about enrolment.
They further shared that continued discourse on the implementation process was necessary to achieve the national ID card that best serves Jamaica.
“As we collectively become more technology-driven, JFJ is increasingly concerned about issues relating to privacy and data security. A point of note, JFJ is not against NIDS as it fulfils the right of each Jamaican to be recognised by the state. However, we want to ensure that there is a strong regulatory and operational framework to provide protection of individual rights, minimize security risks, and provide clear operational mandates and accountability guiding the NIDS,” said Executive Director for JFJ Mickel Jackson.
“When the government has access to our personal data, without proper regulations, we can lose more than just privacy and control over our information but other liberties as well. We, therefore, encourage the government to get the necessary legislative framework in place before moving full speed ahead,” she added.
Matthew McNaughton of the SlashRoots Foundation expressed similar sentiments, noting that the videos are a part of the coalition’s larger objectives which are aimed at propelling the conversation around regulations that will underpin the system and shape the ecosystem that will emerge around it.
“Both the Prime Minister and Minister Green have highlighted the value of consultation in improving NIDS. We want that discourse to continue with the public as implementation progresses through the development of the regulations, the pilot, and after full launch,” said McNaughton
“Each video aims to ensure that people not only know their rights but helps to stimulate productive discussion about the larger issues at stake. Jamaicans should not have to choose between getting a national ID and protecting their right to privacy. We are working to ensure a future in which personal data in the form of digital property is safe while fulfilling the objective of providing every Jamaican with access to trusted identification,” added McNaughton.
The coalition used the occasion to express concern about the lack of regulations which are necessary to guide both the National Identification and Registration Act and the Data Protection Act (DPA).
Recognizing the statements made by the minister in charge of NIDS, Floyd Green, indicating that the regulations for NIDS would be tabled in the coming weeks, the coalition urged the public to be vigilant in keeping the government to account as it relates to the proposed timeline and, also called for a firm commitment from the Minister that there will be opportunities for feedback from professional groups and civil society.
Addressing the September 2022 date announced during the sectoral debate by Technology Minister, Daryl Vaz, for the regulations for the Data Protection Act, the coalition said the date puts the horse before the cart. The coalition argued, that the timeline put forward by Vaz would see the issuing of NIDS cards in a pilot before the regulations would be in place — a commitment the government previously said it would not do.
The coalition also expressed concern about the speed at which the rollout is seemingly taking place without the necessary legislative safeguards through regulations and is encouraging the government to ensure that safety and integrity are not compromised.
The videos, which are between 30 seconds to 45 seconds long, are a mix of education and advocacy, taking the form of public service announcements (PSA) aimed at raising awareness around the right to privacy. The videos also reminded the government that as it implements the ID systems, consideration be given to the inclusion of marginalised and vulnerable groups, including rural citizens, persons with disabilities, and individuals with low levels of literacy.
The NIDS Focus Coalition formed in 2021 is composed of 14 civil society organizations aimed at helping in the development of the NIDS legislation and regulation.