National Digital ID (NDID)

Maintaining privacy and control

I was asked by The Star to comment on the National Digital ID (NDID) Framework which is currently under the development of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia (MCMC). The NDID will would ease the public in the process of verification and authentication of their identities for performing digital transactions based on based on biometric features such as fingerprints, face recognition and demographic information such as names and others [Source: Identiti Digital Nasional (ID Digital Nasional)].

Based on a survey conducted by MCMC on the development of a framework for digital ID, participants have identified the 5 areas where NDID can be used-

  • Electronic healthcare records: Patients will be able to access their healthcare records online, including reviewing doctor visits and current prescriptions. They will also be able to share their records with other parties.
  • Government assistance: Citizens will be able to check their eligibility and register for government assistance programmes online. Less paperwork and documentation will be required, and the payment will be automatically banked into their accounts upon identity verification.
  • Government services: A more efficient and integrated e-government system will allow citizens to access various services, including business registration, e-voting and apply for driving licences.
  • Financial institutions: Authentication will be made seamless, allowing users to open bank accounts and perform various transactions such as applying for loans through their phones.
  • Telecommunications sector: A digital ID will eliminate repetitive verification for updating personal details, change of SIM card and when a person forgets the password to an account.

In the article, I said-

Privacy laws have to be improved to assure the public that the best measures are being taken to keep the user’s personal data associated with the digital ID safe, said Bar Council Information Technology and Cyber Laws Committee deputy chairman Foong Cheng Leong. He pointed out that the Federal and state governments are not subject to the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) 2010. This meant users cannot take action if their personal data was compromised when using a government service.

“Also, any breach of the PDPA is subject to the discretion of the [Personal Data Protection] Commissioner to take action. There is no express provision in the PDPA stating that a victim can go to court to sue through his or her own lawyer,” he added.

To help reassure the public, Foong also wanted the government to consider allowing civil societies such as privacy rights groups and the Bar Council to participate in the development, maintenance and operation of the digital ID.

The experts also felt that it’s only right to make the digital ID optional.

Madihah said it would be best to have all citizens signed up, but in reality, it could be an issue for those without proper Internet connection or are tech illiterate.

“For a start it’s good enough to have a portion of the public sign up first, before enrolling more people,” she suggested.

Foong also agreed, saying that the government should opt for a slower adoption process, adding that more should be made known about the digital ID first.

“We should have the right to know what information will be
included and have the right to ask for details to be deleted. Further, we should also have the right to correct and update the information. Basically the rights provided by our PDPA should also be reflected in the digital ID,” he said.

In addition to the above, perhaps the Government should also consider introducing a digital ID framework for businesses. This is because many businesses in Malaysia use Government platforms to conduct businesses and many of these platforms require separate and some times tedious registration. For example, law firms are required to register themselves with the judiciary in order to use the e-filing system. A separate registration is also required for an account with the Companies Commission of Malaysia and the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia. A digital ID framework would reduce the verification process by the Government and also submission of physical or identical documents.

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