Bangladesh plans to distribute 100M digital ID cards with citizen fingerprints, iris scans

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The Bangladeshi government has announced plans to equip 100 million people with new Smart National ID cards, complete with built-in chips that will include scans of all 10 of a user’s fingerprints, their iris, and their telephone number.

With 32 types of “basic information” embedded in the card’s chip, election officials hope that forgery in Bangladesh will become a thing of the past. The ID card can be used for passport services, banking, motor vehicle operations, and more, according to The Daily Star.

Of course, the thoroughness of Bangladeshi card also raises questions about ownership of identity, as well as concerns over security and potential government surveillance brought about by having so much personal data in one compact package.

The government is distributing the NID card to citizens free of charge, though it is currently limited to a handful of towns and locations. With a population of over 160 million, government officials hope they will be able to equip more than 100 million citizens with cards.

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The launch of the card makes Bangladesh the first and only country to be using retinal scans to verify the identity of citizens. To promote the initiative, the nation’s president, prime minister, and members of its national cricket team were the first recipients.

While Bangladesh’s Election Commission insists that citizens’ personally identifying data is “fully protected” from unauthorized access, anti-censorship publication Advox noted that the commission has offered no explanation of how the data is stored or secured.

However, initial reaction from citizens is said to be positive, with new card owners expressing excitement over the possibilities and open access that the NID card offers.