Whether you support the proposed National Identification System (NIDS) unreservedly or oppose it absolutely or fall somewhere in between, it would be useful to know what information the NIDS Bill passed on November 21, 2017, allows to be collected and stored in the Database. The list of information is set out in the Third Schedule of the Bill and the current Third Schedule is different in a number of respects, when compared with the original Bill tabled in the House on March 21 this year.
In the original Third Schedule, all information to be collected was mandatory. The current Third Schedule distinguishes between information which will be mandatory and shall by included and other information which may be included, some of which will be voluntarily given if the person being registered so chooses.
Part A of the Third Schedule lists the Biographic Information to be collected, all of which is mandatory, except for e-mail address.
Part B lists Biometric Information, which is in the categories of Core Biometric Information (B1 & B2), which must be included in the Database, and Other Biometric Information (B3), which may be included in the Database. It has been explained that the information in B2 would only be required when finger prints are not available from the person being registered. The details of this would have to be set out in the Regulations, which are still being drafted. B3(1) refers to distinguishing features, which may be included in the Database, and seems self-explanatory as part of identification, but it is not at all clear under what circumstances it would be expected that an individual’s blood type would be included in the database. Again this points to the fact that many of the details about implementation are to be set out in the Regulations and how important it is that the public has an opportunity to see the Regulations before they are passed.
Part C lists the Demographic Information that may be included in the Database, but this is entirely optional and the person being registered only needs to give it if they choose to. It is important that this is made clear to people at the time of registration. (Number 9 in Part C is a repreat of Number 5 in Part A(1). It has been explained that this is repeated because the information in Part A wouldn’t be available for statistical purposes, while that in Part C would be, and this information would be useful for such purposes.)
Part D lists the other Reference numbers that shall be included in the Database, where they are available. Part E lists the Registrarial History which shall be stored in the Database. This includes information about an idividual’s National ID cards that have been issued, cancelled or returned. It also includes the information about instances in which an individual’s identity information has been disclosed to a requesting entity. (Clauses 43-45 of the Bill specifically deal with Disclosure of Information.) This is important information that should be permanently stored, as it allows an individual to know to whom their information has been disclosed.
Two other changes since the original Bill was tabled in March 2017 have to do with DNA and with the Minister’s power to amend the Third Schedule.
The initial Bill did not include DNA in the list of biometric information to be collected, but it did not prohibit it. The Bill now specifically excludes the collection of DNA, in the definition of biometric information in Clause 2.
The Bill does retain an amendment to the DNA Evidence Act in the Sixth Schedule.
The list of information that shall or may be included in the Database is not set in stone. It can obviously be changed in the future, as is the nature of legislation. However, changes to the Third Schedule cannot be made by the Minister by order, subject to affirmative resolution, as was the case with the initial version of the Bill, but would have to go through the full process for amending the law. This is Clause 57(3).
It will be important to pay attention to the Regulations which will set out many of the operational details for the implementation of the law. The devil can be in the details at many different levels.