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Brenda K. Leong, Senior Counsel & Director of Strategy of the Future of Privacy Forum, will talk about Identity and Privacy. The problem of whether private citizens should be required to have government-issued documentation (verifying their personal identity in order to access goods and services, seek employment, travel, or obtain government benefits), long predates the current discussions related to digital identity systems, the use of biometrics, or platforms like blockchain. But whether past or present, these challenges are all based on the question of how to balance government efficiencies and national security against protections for individual freedoms and liberty.
Underlying this conversation is the concept of privacy. Is it a fundamental right? What does it mean? Who gets to decide which conveniences are worth the tradeoffs they require? Are the protections for personal data offered by policy and law sufficient, or should technical and security protections be required? Are some systems simply too high-risk to implement regardless of perceived benefits? To answer those questions, it’s important to understand the technologies at work – biometrics such as fingerprints and facial recognition offer greater reliability, security and certainty, but raise fears of “permanent” breach if the personal data is compromised. These systems offer accessibility at scale that can be updated throughout a lifetime in a way that password-based accounts cannot equal. But fair access to all, protections of personal data, and most importantly, legal, policy, and technical protections against discrimination and abuse are critical to ensuring these and related technologies are not simply used to restrict personal freedom, or target groups and other populations. Brenda covers how these and other aspects of the modern concept of “digital identity” are being approached in different ways, and what some of the benefits and risks are for the future.