Thursday, March 3, 2011

105 - Indonesia to Join the Smart Card Set

Indonesia to Join the Smart Card Set
Written by Our Correspondent     

Everything you ever wanted to know about everybody

Indonesia appears about to become the latest country in Asia to adopt computer chip-laden national identity cards making voluminous amounts of personal identification available to government officials.

Indonesia’s proposed card, which is to begin field trials before the end of the year, will feature 37 items of personal information including birth certificate, marital status, blood type, parents’ name and employment, physical and/or mental disabilities and fingerprints of all fingers plus a photo. Officials envision that it will be used to identify voters, putting to rest problems of multiple voting that have dogged Indonesian elections.
Field trials can serve as a warning of another sort for prospective vendors. There is little Indonesian officials like better than a competition between companies to line up with their hands out, palms up.
Indonesia’s move comes at a time when civil rights organizations across the world are growing uneasy about the mass of personal information that becomes available to governments, particularly as computers have grown more sophisticated.  The move by governments to increase such information has grown significantly since Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. 
That is unsettling for the London-based Privacy International, which was formed in 1990 to combat invasions of privacy.  On its website, the organization charges that a survey of the use of ID cards around the globe “found claims of police abuse by way of the cards in virtually all countries.  Most involved people being arbitrarily detained after failure to produce their card. Others involved beatings of juveniles or minorities. There were even instances of wholesale discrimination on the basis of data set out on the cards.”
Cards, the organization claims, are “often alleged to be the vehicle for discriminatory practices. Police who are given powers to demand ID invariably have consequent powers to detain people who do not have the card, or who cannot prove their identity. Even in such advanced countries as Germany, the power to hold such people for up to 24 hours is enshrined in law. The question of who is targeted for ID checks is left largely to the discretion of police.”
The growing sophistication of what can be loaded onto a card is staggering.  Malaysia was the first country to pioneer a computerized card that carries 64 kilobytes of information that isn’t just an ID card.  It is a driver’s license, passport and health storage repository. It can function as a cash card with a maximum limit of US$500, a toll-road and public transport payment system and is integrated into automatic teller machines.
Other countries in Asia have or are adopting chip identification cards of varying sophistication except for the Philippines, where the government was forced by civil rights groups to abandon plans for a single national identification system, claiming it was a violation of privacy. In addition to government identification purposes, Singapore’s card can also be used for day-to-day transactions, obtaining discounts at some stores and for logging on to certain websites on the Internet.  Schools use them for student identification and for exams. In Hong Kong, a smart ID card contains 13 pieces of information which authorities say is protected by privacy regulations. It can also be used as a library card and for other functions.  
Although more than 100 countries have a national identity card system, according to Privacy International, many developed countries don’t have them.  They include the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the Nordic countries and Sweden.
That doesn’t stop Privacy International from labeling the United States an “endemic surveillance society” along with Russia, China and North Korea, among other countries. Although US citizens have always rebelled against a national identification card, the government has voluminous computerized information from myriad sources. According to testimony before several Congressional committees earlier this year, the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program involved extensive intercepts of private communications, both telephonic and on e-mail.
Greece, according to the organization, is the only country on the planet that falls into the “green zone” of countries that have adequate safeguards against abuse,  India, currently in Privacy International’s pink zone, appears about to join the black countries. In June, it launched the world’s largest program to register its more than one billion citizens. Indonesian officials aren’t particularly concerned about the privacy issue.
“You can no longer lie about your marital status,” Saut Situmorang, spokesman for the Indonesia Home Affairs Ministry, told reporters in Jakarta. “If you try to cheat a girl by saying that you’re single when you’re not, one swipe of your card will reveal all your information. Your future parents-in-law will no longer be nice to you.”
The government plans to test the new ID card in pilot projects by the end of the year in four cities — Denpasar, Makassar, Padang and Yogyakarta, officials said. The Jakarta city administration will run its own pilot program. 
Saut said the purpose of the pilot projects were to find the best model to replicate across the country. “If we could launch the pilots by the end of this year, next year ... we’ll apply it nationwide,” he told reporters. “We’re obliged to find the best system compatible to be applied in all areas.”

The central government is calculating the budget needed for the new card and will soon begin procurement of hardware and software for the project and train staff to eventually mass register the population, Saut said.

The Jakarta city government is voluntarily joining the national project, said
“We’re intensively coordinating with the central government to grasp the concept of the E-KTP,” he said on Sunday.

“Though it’s a local government initiative, we want to make sure that we will implement the same system that is planned to be applied nationally.”

Nurrahman said Jakarta wanted to begin its pilot project by December or early next year using the same system as the central government. “We will probably start this year with one subdistrict,” he said. “Next year, we hope to have already applied it in all areas of Jakarta.

“Many of our citizens have more than one KTP [identity card]. When they move to other cities, they make new cards until they have dozens,” said Nurrahman, head of population administration development at the Jakarta Population and Civic Registration Agency.  “Under the new system, you no longer need to apply for new card when you move to other city, only re-enter the data.”

Editor's note: Asia Sentinel had no idea, contrary to the two letters below, of any involvement of either the Lippo Group or the Riady family in the contest to develop an Indonesian smart identity card.  Our interest was in the privacy issues of electronic storage of personal information, as the story clearly points out. Any imputation that Asia Sentinel was backing any interest is erroneous and threatens our integrity as a journalistic enterprise.