IGF 2018 WS #382 The Future of Digital Identity and Human Rights

Salle VI

Organizer 1: Ananta Sharma, Rethink Aadhaar

Speaker 1: Usha Ramanathan, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Amba Kak, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Wafa Ben-Hassine, Civil Society, African Group

Additional Speakers

Raman Jit Singh Chima (Access Now; speaker)

Brett Solomon (Access Now; moderator)


Access Now

Online Moderator

Access Now


Rethink Aadhaar


Panel - 60 Min


Our session will be moderated by Brett Solomon (Executive Director of Access Now, chair of the RightsCon summit eries).

Usha Ramanathan (independent researcher and legal scholar, India; joining remotely) is a noted academic expert and commentator on the subject of digital identity, biometrics, inclusion, and human rights. She has been a member of the Government of India's Committee of Experts on Privacy chaired by Justice AP Shah, and actively engaged in legal and policy discussions around digital identity, biometrics, and evolving technology on DNA in the context of rule of law and citizenship in India and the developing world. We aim to have her provide case study examples from India and other common law nations across the global south on Digital Identity, as well as socio-legal commentary on how the reality of digital identity matches the legal and theoretical frameworks often discussed in policymaker and industry circles. Amba Kak (Global Policy Advisor, Mozilla) has experience studying how regulation of technology and telecommunications works across both European and Asian geographies, particularly with respect to the open internet and digital rights such as privacy. She also provides experience around how public interest technology organisations and the web development industry is seeking to balance interests around digital identity and digital rights. Raman Jit Singh Chima (Access Now global policy team; trustee at the Internet Freedom Foundation and Article 21 Foundation India) has expense in digital identity debates, national privacy frameworks, technology product development, and corporate accountability, with a particular focus on Asia Pacific and emerging technology nations. He will share case studies and policy lessons from digital identity debates in Asia and discuss global policy dos and don’t in digital identity policy design. We also seek to include participants from the UNDP and Estonian Government, to speak on their experiences in the present and future arc of digital identity in their respective international development and national deployment spheres.


Confirmed participants including representatives of academia, industry, and civil society - and representing actors spread across North America and Asia. We have also engaged governmental resource people from Europe and intergovernmental representatives (from UNDP and national government locations in both North America and Europe) on the deliberations of this session. 

This session aims to discuss how online identity management to access both online and offline services can be better designed to enhance data privacy. What proposals should be considered when establishing new identity management programs? Is the strengthening of function for authenticators enough? While the role of digital identities on the internet is generally touted as a way to bring users closer to the services they use everyday, the management of these identities can sometimes become a burden on all stakeholders involved: users, private companies and/or states, and service providers. How can we ensure that the implementation of digital identity management programs, especially those that are mandatory due to governmental regulations (ex. a national ID card or a driver’s license) does not work to facilitate the tracking and monitoring of its users? When and how could users request to opt-out of governmental data sharing initiatives? With national ID programs, should citizens be able to access their own information that is related to their digital identity? Finally, how can clients, such as states, guarantee that the private company selected to furnish either the materials or services for the identity management program work to protect the personal data of users from hacks and other material breaches?

We will be organising a conference call with all session speakers and facilitators a month prior to IGF along with the sharing of resources and publications related to the topic, that we will aim to promote in social media prior to IGF. During the session, the moderator will help set the stage, introduce panelists and preview the issues they discussed in preparation for the session, and then ask all panelists to provide comments in two rounds of prepared remarks (with more posed questions and back and forth in the second round). Each round will have space for questions from remote participants as well as two-three top questions from audience members at the location. We will seek to have a third round of replies in response to more Q&A across the last 15-20 minutes of the session.

Governments globally are increasingly proposing or implementing national digital identity programmes. Many such programmes entail a push to collect, store, and use the biometrics of individuals as the primary means of establishing and authenticating their identity. proponents of biometrics linked-national ID programmes argue that they bring benefits such as more accurate and efficient delivery of government services, anti-poverty regimes, and welfare schemes; that they can reduce corruption or increase inclusion; or can help serve national security interests. However, critics have responded by noting that national digital identity schemes may not in fact ensure more effective distribution of benefits, better service delivery, or improved governance, and at the same time, they raise serious concerns, including concerns about how such programmes are designed or governed; the potential for social exclusion; privacy and data protection; and cybersecurity. This session will build on a series of policy conversations that have been held on this topic, including discussions at RightsCon 2017 and RightsCon 2018, and conversations in several other fora (including, but not limited to, MozFest 2017, the World Economic Forum's Digital Identity Working Group March meetings)

Online Participation

We will have a dedicated person helping manage remote participation, along with remote participation champions (from other staffers in our organisation) based in New York and New Delhi. We will have the remote participation session open (along with corresponding social media tweets and stream monitoring) and adapt the programme to ensure we allow remote participants to be able to intervene after every panel speaker and with dedicated spots thrice in the Q&A session.

Session Time