THE NATIONAL IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM (NIDS)

The Effects of the NIDS

Crime, Identification, DNA, Court, Evidence, Corruption, Jamaica, Police

During the 1970s, the Government of Jamaica began deliberation surrounding the National Identification Policy. This conversation bore the concept that each person, once a Jamaican citizen should have a National Identification Number. In 1995 cabinet gave the approval and the bill was presented to the parliament in the year 2000- OPM 2016.

Approximately forty-six (46) years later, the bill was introduced to the Parliament of Jamaica as a white paper.
According to the NIDS Policy, the reasons behind this decision were:

1. No unified identification system with comprehensive information pertaining to its citizens, to enable business transaction and improve social welfare programmes.
2. The cost associated with the implementation of this identification system will benefit all stakeholders in the long-run.

In 2015 the Government of Jamaica stated that the National Identification System will be rolled out in the year 2020 and has budgeted some $24.9 million dollars to fund the project in 2015. According to Onika Miller, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Biometric data is being considered as Identity Theft and Cyber Crime is an issue that close attention must be given-Jamaica Observer 2015.

Since the Bill re-entered Parliament last year, many debates surrounding the bill has emerged; those in favour and those against. The opposition has criticized the policy stating that it is too “intrusive” and therefore, invade the privacy of all Jamaica Citizens. Some of the features of the National Identification System will be:

1. Demographic Data ( Race, Religion, Profession, Occupation etc)
2. Biometric Data ( Iris, Fingerprint, Footprint, Palm Print etc)

While there are mounting concerns about the privacy of the data collected, the data by itself isn’t dangerous and cannot by itself be manipulated. The NIDS Act 2017 provides for a proper and periodic security clearance and background check of the board, appointees and employees – Section 2 subsection 14 “Every member of the board and every person who is proposed to be appointed to the office of the Authority, shall prior to and during their appointment or employment, subjected to periodic checks and background checks as may be prescribed in the regulations”.

The benefits of the NIDS Act 2017 allows for greater compliance of citizens with the law in an effort to reduce crime. This is by way of information available that can be accessed and probed, investigated without tipping off the adversary or offenders. For example, someone who is accused of breaking an entry, data in relations to fingerprints and palm prints are readily accessible and an investigation can commence before pursuing the suspect, whom in some cases are arrested and released after 72 hours by way of no evidence to lay a charge. This inability compromises the case and lends to further risk and threat of the informant who must now either secure themselves or placed into state care.

In addition, the NIDS allows for GOJ to plan for the economy by way of having demographic information pertaining to those on the path and other welfare programmes. This means better budget allocation and strengthening of the Free Healthcare Policy by way of the introduction of a National Health Insurance Plan or Policy.

However, although the present requirements prescribed by the act is receiving negative criticism from the opposition and some generally concerned citizens, the requirements really need to go further to ensure that all aspect of bio-data is capture for its citizens. This list should also include Semen, Saliva, Hair and Blood Sample. In probing a rape scene or a victim, the greatest of all evidence is the semen, however, if the perpetrator (s) uses a condom and is smart enough to leave no trace behind, then traces of Hair, Blood, and possible saliva can be used to probe this particular matter.

Although the DNA Act 2015 provides for some samples to be taken, it is very restricted on how it can be taken and by who gives them permission to take these samples. In fact, the act stipulates that in taking the samples evidence of the collection of these samples must be adhered to by way of audiovisual recording and/or Just of the Peace. This in itself creates another layer of blockage into the system as Officers who are instructed to conduct these sampling will in most cases refuse to carry out these instructions or use delay tactics to prevent the collection.

In the final analysis, the information security is a key component to the success of the National Identification System (NIDS). The NIDS Act Section 10 provided adequately for this breach but should be strongly enforced without bias or prejudice.

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