A Look Back: Stefan Brands’ Take on a British National Identity Scheme

From time-to-time EPIC looks back at issues that give context to a current debate. Some discussions should be viewed as guideposts that can help shape U.S. privacy policy.

In 2015, Professor Stefan Brands, founder of Credentica and EPIC Advisor, participated in a panel discussion at the Oxford Internet Institute focused on the benefits and drawbacks of a UK Biometric scheme. Several important issues were raised related to identity – including which factors make up identity, and how to balance ethics, safety, and human rights.

Asking the Wrong Questions

Professor Brands began his speech by highlighting how these conversations lead to no progress.  “The real problem with these debates is that they are based on questions and principles that are wrong,” Brands said.

He listed a series of questions that lead to only binary choices. For instance, “should we use black lists at airports” is a question that gives no regard to the methodology used.  However there are ways to strike a balance between safety and privacy. According to Professor Brands, Public Key Cryptography gives users the ability to share data without revealing any personal information. “This debate needs to become more sophisticated.” Brands said.

Understandably, airport security should only be interested in knowing that travelers are not black listed. If this information could be verified without revealing personal details about the traveler, that’s the ideal approach.

The Growth of Mass Surveillance

Since 2015, mass surveillance in the United Kingdom has grown exponentially with the implementation of AI. EPIC has been at the forefront of the Biometric Airport Entry/Exit debate and raised significant concerns about facial recognition used by government agencies.

Innovative and nuanced approaches that respect individual privacy without compromising security are needed. Watch the full discussion below. For more information on Dr. Stefan Brands, government surveillance, and Biometrics, please visit www.epic.org. Defend Privacy. Support EPIC.