In October Tunisian parliamentarians are set to debate a law to create a new national identity card that threatens to violate citizens’ fundamental rights. Access Now has translated the draft law to English, previously only available in Arabic.
The Ministry of Interior introduced the draft law to the Tunisian Parliament last summer. Following a referral to the Committee on Rights and Liberties, lawmakers then debated the bill, amended it, and this past July, voted on it. The draft law now awaits consideration by parliamentarians, who will vote on it in plenary session after their summer recess.
The proposed card seeks to completely replace the current ID card, and along with it, introduces a whole host of issues that threaten to deeply undermine the hard-won privacy and free expression rights of Tunisian citizens.
The danger of the bill lies in its ambiguity and the lack of provisions for transparency. Take, for example, Article 2bis: “[The encrypted part of the chip will contain] the administrative data related to the digitization and registration of the card.” What is the “administrative data” exactly?
Vague provisions such as Article 2bis raise critical questions for Tunisians’ privacy and security that remain unanswered, even as the draft law faces increasing public scrutiny in Tunisia and globally. They include:
- What kind of personal data will be stored in the encrypted part of the new identity card?
- What institution is charged with determining which personal data are stored, and if personal data are stored, exactly how long will it be stored for? Is there a limit to how long the information is retained?
- Is there any kind of procedure that government authorities must undertake to gain access to a database that contains the personal data of millions of citizens?
- How is the database secured?
- How come the law does not mandate the creation of an independent commission to address these questions?
Meanwhile, the reasons the Ministry cites for creating this new ID card are unclear at best. This project would be enormously costly, replicating existing efforts and wasting hundreds of thousands of dinars in public funds. The current Tunisian identity card already has a unique identifier number, as well as a bar code that the Ministry has yet to take advantage of in its administrative operations and treatment of personal data. In what way does replacing the current ID serve the public interest, especially without proper safeguards for our privacy and digital security? The answer, as far as we can tell, is that it doesn’t.
If you’d like to help Access Now push back against this dangerous proposal — which has many of the same problems for fundamental rights as the highly controversial “Aadhaar” unique ID program in India — please share this post with your social networks, using the hashtag #firstmyprivacy. If more of us speak out now, we may be able to prevent this step backward on digital rights in Tunisia.