Monday, 3 May 2004

Harvard panel 13 May on international ID and human rights

International Identification Issues and Human Rights: Will National IDs and US-VISIT Side/Swipe Dignity and Privacy?

Thursday, 13 May 2004, Noon (free and open to the public; RSVP by e-mail requested but not required ).

Harvard University, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, 1033 Mass. Ave., Room M-11, Cambridge, MA (map and directions)

The panel will explore domestic and international issues ranging from national databank systems and identity cards used for identification and profiling purposes to fingerprinting and photographing foreign visitors and national citizens in relationship to standards for security, domestic privacy, and international human rights.

This promises to be an interesting and important event, touching on issues of international and human rights law and the intersection of domestic and international politics. It’s especially appropriate that it’s to be held in the Boston area, where both international education — which is already being impacted significantly by US-VISIT — and surveillance technology are major contributors to the local economy, and which is likely to be a particular focus of government efforts to monitor the comings, goings, and movements of visitors and local people during this summer’s Democratic Party National Convention.

Confirmed panelists:

Title: “USA Initiatives for Identification and Surveillance of Travellers”

Abstract: The USA is leading a global initiative to require (1) identification credentials and (2) collection and transmisison to governments of information about all travellers. Programs such as US-VISIT for travel across USA borders, CAPPS-II for travel within the USA, and the proposed API data sharing and ICAO biometric/RFID passport standards for worldwide travel would have the effect of mandating the conversion of commercial travel reservations systems into an infrastructure of surveillance of travellers’ movements. In advancing these unilateral initiatives, the USA has ignored international norms of privacy, data protection, and movement of people as human rights (most of which are not yet recognized in USA domestic law), and USA Constitutional rights to freedom of travel. The proposed mandates would have little if any security value (and significant potential security drawbacks), and great potential for surveillance use and abuse. The real tradeoff is not between privacy and security, but between privacy, civil liberties, human rights, and security on the one side, and government surveillance and commercial data mining on the other.

Title: “Issues in Compulsory National ID Schemes and Related Personal Identification Technologies”

Abstract: In 1998, the Taiwanese government planned to introduce a smartcard-based national ID scheme to replace the existing compulsory paper-based national ID scheme. The proposed scheme would require to digitize and store an ID holder’s finger prints, among other personal details, in his/her smartcard ID. The plan was eventually blocked because of heavy public protest. I shall discuss in the panel several issues in such a compulsory national ID scheme, especially when it is implemented with personal identification technologies that are increasingly crypto- and/or biometrics-based. I shall also share with the audience the Taiwanese experience in campaigning against the proposed smartcard-based ID scheme and, if time allows, comment on similar ID schemes in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Malaysia.

Title: “The Constitutional Right to Travel as a defense against compulsory ID schemes”:

Abstract: A universal national ID card has been likened to a “domestic passport.” That is exactly the un-American scheme that judges through the years have had in mind when they have declared a “right to travel” in the U.S. constitution. “Freedom to travel is, indeed, an important aspect of the citizen’s liberty,” said the U.S. Supreme Court in 1958. The cases, with a few exceptions, have invalidated unreasonable restrictions on international travel by Americans or governmental residence requirements to qualify for public assistance. But they are applicable, perhaps more so, to domestic travel. My remarks will trace the constitutional right to travel and argue that it is a much more effective and appropriate means to argue against ID requirements, than the Fourth Amendment, as argued in the Gilmore and Hiibel cases.

Title: “Towards a Global ID”

Abstract: Privacy International, the ACLU, and a coalition of more than 2 dozen groups worldwide sent a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to ask them to halt their standards-setting on biometric passports. The ICAO is a UN-level organization that is responsible for the standardization of travel documents, among other activities. US Law cedes the initial development of a biometric laden passport to ICAO. ICAO met in Cairo, from March 22 until April 2nd to finalize the biometric passport among other plans including the transfer of Advanced Passenger Information and Passenger Name Records. They also proposed putting an RFID chip into passorts. Biometric passport systems, often seen as a response to terrorism, if gone unchecked, will result in national governments developing databases of citizens’ face scans, fingerprints, and iris scans. They will become a de facto “Global ID card”. This will likely occur with little deliberation and debate in national parliaments. We worry that these policy changes will be adopted due to perceived ‘international obligations’ and efforts at harmonization. This is another case of policy laundering, where governments gain the benefits of policies by adopting international standards, without having consulted and deliberated, and often circumventing any such processes. Put simply, through the ICAO, national governments are establishing national ID systems with all of our face scans and fingerprints without actually having a national debate.

  • Other panelists to be determined (including invited representatives of government, industry, and NGO’s)

For more information or to help with outreach, contact Dr. Richard Sobel. This event is being organized on short notice, so please help spread the word among lawyers, human rights activists, travellers, and international educators and NGO’s who might be interested.

Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 3 May 2004, 15:06 ( 3:06 PM)
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