Centre for Internet & Society

Omidyar Network has invested in a trio of organizations from different regions to support enhanced understanding of the appropriate use and limits of digital identity.

The blog post by Chris Burt was published in Biometri Update on May 8, 2019.

Organizations from Brazil, Kenya, and India will take on a collaborative and iterative research process to help develop Omidyar’s concept of Good ID, according to a blog post by Omidyar Networks Investment Principal Subhashish Bhadra.

The three organizations are the Institute for Technology & Society (ITS), the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT), and the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS). The ITS is a non-profit organization based in Brazil, with a mission of ensuring that emerging markets can respond appropriately to digital technologies, and that their benefits are broadly shared. CIPIT is an academic think tank, operating from the Strathmore Law School in Nairobi, Kenya, addressing emerging issues of continent-wide impact and providing an African voice for research networks. CIS is an India-based non-profit, which conducts interdisciplinary academic research to understand how the internet and digital technologies reconfigure social processes and structures.

Bhadra notes that 110 countries have begun identification schemes in the past decade. These programs are often implemented to serve an initial use case, and their application expanded over time.

“In the absence of adequate legislative or judicial oversight, mission creep can create risks for those very individuals that an identity is supposed to empower,” Bhadra writes. “By their very nature, digital identity systems collect some data about individuals in order to provide access to certain services. This immediately raises two interrelated questions. First, how much data should the system collect? Second, what services should it be tied to?”

Determining the appropriate scope of digital identity is inherently complex, and the potential for mission creep and requirement for a growing list of services risks exclusion, privacy violations, and a power imbalance between institutions and individuals, Bhadra argues.

The three groups will conduct independent research over the next six months, and create a set of recommendations and tools for stakeholders to use when engaging with digital identity systems.
Omidyar is a supporter of the Mission Billion Challenge, among several initiatives related to UN SDG 16.9.

Filed under: