At least one Rastafarian group has joined the call for Government to put a pause to the roll out of its planned national digital ID scheduled for later this month.
President of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF) Paul Simba Rock told Barbados TODAY it was unfair for Government to rush ahead with a plan that will affect the entire population without having adequate discussion.
“It can’t be just something the Attorney General come and say you don’t have to do this and you don’t have to do that, but then later you find out that when you don’t have it people are saying you can’t do business because,” said Rock.
“I am seeing it will be problematic down the road. I think that more justification needs to be had for actually having it. I agree that even though we are small we can move forward in a modern way and certain things should be digitized to make things easier. But my mother always said ‘too far east is west’.
“So in life there has to be a balance, you can’t just rush and do things because as they say, ‘too much haste does make waste’. We have seen in the haste of doing things, in the long run, we feel the real price and then we have to be scrambling to find solutions because we didn’t take our time in the beginning,” he explained.
Rock said he understood the need to upgrade the existing ID, which is a laminated paper containing the basic information of registration number, the holder’s name, sex, date of birth, nationality, height, date of issue and a signature.
However, he said to ask individuals to put their fingerprint on the card, though optional, was a road he was not comfortable going down.
“It is kind of troubling. I find that the Government is asking Barbados to go down a road and sign on to things they really don’t have the full information on. It is like the vaccine . . . But nobody is addressing the questions of long-term because realistically, it has been push through and there is no research on long-term effects. So realistically it is a common sense thing, we are taking a risk,” said Rock.
“So now we are talking about this digital ID. As I understand, just like the vaccine, they are saying some of the information on it is not mandatory. But I think when it is done you could expect some sort of difference in society maybe restrictions for those who didn’t take the vaccine, and the same thing with the ID,” he explained.
Introducing the Barbados Identity Management Bill recently, Attorney General Dale Marshall announced that the new chip-based national ID, which is to be made of PVC material and also act as a driver’s licence, will contain the basic information that is currently on the old ID, and individuals will have the option of having their fingerprint on it “if they desire”.
According to the legislation, the new ID card shall also contain place of birth, eye colour, physical abnormalities or distinguishing marks if any, address of residence in Barbados, disability if any, full name of biological or adopted parents, part of a twin or multiple birth, name of guardian where relevant, marital status, telephone numbers, email address, and occupation.
Barbados TODAY understands that it could also be optional for the new card to contain some medical information about an individual, for example, if they are asthmatic or allergic to penicillin.
Rock told Barbados TODAY he feared that when introduced, people who chose not to have some information on the new high-tech card would be exempt from accessing some government and private sector services.
“The Attorney General is saying it is your choice whether you want to put your fingerprint and what information, but what happens when you put that out there to business places and other establishments that will refuse you from doing business or offering you service because your ID doesn’t have any fingerprint?” he said.
“I think it is like a very sneaky and sort of psychological trick the Government is trying to work, where they are saying ‘you don’t have to do something’, but all the education campaign around the thing is to try and influence you or coerce you into doing the same thing. And you are not putting information across the board,” said a skeptical Rock.
His assessment comes days after University of the West Indies law lecturer Dr Ronnie Yearwood called for the implementation of the ID to be put on pause, contending that it looks like “an assault on liberty” and “an unnecessary instruction” by the government in the collection and use of personal data.
Among Yearwood’s concerns was security, as well as Section 12 of the Bill, which states in part that “Where a person is unable to produce his identification card, the person authorized to require such identification shall, unless another form of identification is authorized by law, defer consideration of the person or refuse access until such time as the relevant identification card is produced.”
Rock said he was concerned about possible fraud and cyber attacks, insisting that “the government cannot ensure that your information won’t be hacked or given to anybody without you even knowing it”.
“We are on these social media things and people are collecting your data and using it. There is no assurance really that they can give, but then they are asking people to put everything in this one place for convenience. Sometimes convenience can be a killer,” said Rock.