South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is hoping to use biometric data registration to prevent identity theft within the country. To that end, the agency has released a draft version of a new Identity Management Policy that would allow the government to collect the biometric data of every child in the country at birth, and again at the age of five.
According to the DHA, the new law is necessary because the country’s current Identification Act is obsolete, and has gaps that can easily be exploited. For example, there have been cases in which the birth certificate of a dead child was sold to a foreign national. However, the agency does not have any biometric data to link the birth certificate to the child it originally belonged to, and therefore cannot prove that a crime has been committed if the death of the first child was not reported to the DHA.
“It is currently possible for anyone who has not applied for an ID to successfully claim and use the identity of another person who has also not applied for an ID,” said the agency. “The DHA has no way to reliably verify that a child who presents a birth certificate as proof of identity during interactions with the department – for example, when applying for an ID for the first time – is truly the person whose birth the certificate is meant to certify.”
The new policy would require biometric data collection for every child born within the country, regardless of the citizenship status of their parents. The parents’ biometric data and national ID numbers would also be linked to the birth certificate. Each child would then be re-registered at five, since information collected at birth may not be a reliable identifier over time.
The DHA policy recommends face and ear photographs for the newborns, and iris, face and ten-print fingerprint collection for the five-year-old children. It would also allow citizens to apply for an ID at 10 (instead of at 16), and would recognize non-binary sex and gender classifications.
January 4, 2020 – by Eric Weiss