Posted on Leave a comment

Demanding identity systems on our terms

There is a growing push towards identity systems around the world – leading to some of the world’s largest biometric databases, as well as other technologies that can be used to track and profile individuals and communities.

There is a growing push towards identity systems around the world. There is a growth in both the requirement for us to identify ourselves and the development of identity systems to do so. This has led to some of the world’s largest biometric databases, as well as other technologies that can be used to track and profile individuals and communities. Despite this growth, the challenge to the autonomy and dignity of individuals that come from identity systems is rarely fully addressed. There is a need to understand the lived reality of those who both have and do not have access to these systems, to understand their true impact.

What is the problem

More and more states are pushing for identity systems – often involving giant biometric databases of almost the entire population. These systems are supposed to solve a multitude of problems, from security and fraud-prevention, to meeting the Know Your Customer requirements of financial institutions. However, the challenges of these systems have only just begun to be addressed.

Identity systems create risks for those who have access to an ID, as well as those who don’t. These systems can exclude: for all the claims fo universality, there will be some people who do not have access to an ID, or those who cannot use their ID, and are denied access to goods and services. ID systems can exploit: they link together diverse sets of information about an individual, and allow tracking and profiling. ID systems can surveil: giving the state and private sector a 360-degree view of the person. All three of these are made worse by function creep – the spread of an identity system to more and more aspects of people’s lives.

What is the solution

The first step is recognising that identification systems are not the silver bullet for society’s ills. The creation of identification systems have begun to be seen as an end in themselves, rather than as a tool for achieving other socially-desirable goals. The notion that there must be a ‘foundational’ ID system, lying beneath all an individual’s interactions with the state, needs to be challenged. The only way that a system can be legitimate is through its purpose. That purpose must be reflected in the design of a system. The danger is that the world is defaulting to biometric systems with unique identifiers, which leaves the systems open to abuse and causing harm. 

One of the most important solutions is to find ways of removing ID requirements. At the very least, having one single identification system necessary for all purposes must be challenged.  When a system is to be introduced, we need a proper legal and regulatory framework in place, including a strong data protection regime. But this is not a enough. The fact that ID touches on so many aspects of people’s lives means that the protections must be equally as broad: from the financial sector to the rights of trans people.  It’s also essential to limit function creep as much as possible, through legal and technological means.  Finally, we need more transparency in what is often a murky world of back-room deals between governments and multinational companies.

What PI is doing

Privacy International is working with a global network of partners to critically engage with national, state-provided identification systems, research their impacts, and to advocate for change.

We are engaging with international actors who promote identity systems, including leading funders in this field and international institutions, with the goal of creating a more positive vision for the development of identification systems around the globe.

We are documenting and exposing the companies involved in providing tech solutions to governments and other third parties with the aim of creating a future free from intrusive technologies.


Posted on Leave a comment

What is Transition?

Transition is a movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world. Here we explain what it is, why people do it, how the movement started and give you a sense of our underpinning principles and approach.

Tran • si • tion [tran – zish – uhn]

n. 1. passage from one form, state, style or place to another
2. a period of transformation.

Transition is a movement that has been growing since 2005. Community-led Transition groups are working for a low-carbon, socially just future with resilient communities, more active participation in society, and caring culture focused on supporting each other.  Their approach is based in the Transition Principles.  

In practice, they are using participatory methods to imagine the changes we need, setting up renewable energy projects, re-localising food systems, and creating community and green spaces.  They are nurturing the Inner Transition of the cultural and mindset changes that support social and environmental change.  They are sparking entrepreneurship, working with municipalities, building community connection and care, repairing and re-skilling.  Find out more about the characteristics of Transition.    

The community level of scale has huge potential to influence change and is a crucial part of developing and guiding social and economic systems toward sustainability, social justice and equity. There is an increasing recognition that top-down approaches are not sufficient alone to affect change and need to be combined with community-level responses.  

It’s an approach that has spread now to over 48 countries, in thousands of groups: in towns, villages, cities, Universities, schools.  Around the world, there are 23 Transition Hubs that support and connect Transition groups in their country/region and connect internationally.  One of the key ways Transition spreads is through telling inspiring stories, and that’s what we aim to do on this website.  We really hope you feel inspired to take part, we’d be honoured if you did.

Last updated: November 2021

“I see [Transition] as a wonderful combination of civic local engagement and a worldwide network.  In many towns throughout the world people get together, finding community, enthusiastic about the idea of together envisioning a future model for their town that will make it worth living in.  There is something out there ladies and gentlemen, I’m deeply convinced, that was set in motion already quite some time ago…”

Horst Köhler, former German president and former president of the IMF

Posted on Leave a comment

What is cooperation?

Everybody has heard from it, some even practice it but what is it exactly and are we humans the only ones that behave that way? Read all about it in our new Article in the Knowledge Base (Wiki).

We have high hopes for cooperation because it is the only thing that can. Success.