Fresh laws to govern new Guyana ID card system, protect personal information- Nandlall

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 March 2023, 21:06 by Denis Chabrol

Attorney General, Anil Nandlall

Government will pass new legislation over the next eight months to protect personal data and govern the registration of Guyanese and foreign workers before they are issued Guyana Resident and Work Permit cards, Attorney General Anil Nandlall said Tuesday.

He also said that in addition to Data Protection legislation that has been already drafted, the US$34 million contract between government and the German company, VERIDOS, prohibits the sharing of personal data with other entities and countries. “The contract protects that. The contract states that they can’t use the data for any unauthorised use,” he told Demerara Waves Online News. Mr Nandlall said the legislation would stipulate punishments for unauthorised and illegal use of data.

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) earlier this week poured cold water on government’s reliance on technicians from the National Data Management Authority to determine the technical suitability of  VERIDOS. Why, in light of our digital backwardness to date, better informed expertise was not sought from experienced impartial sources?,” that association asked.

Saying that the push towards e-governance without data protection legislation and public consultation was “reckless in the extreme”, the GHRA said the Guyana Identification Card project should be submitted to the National Assembly.

“The most prudent course of action would be for Guyana to engage with CARICOM in an effort to ensure that this new project harmonizes with and benefits from the Parliamentary experience of CARICOM States such as Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica. Indeed, as a gesture of regionalizing Guyana’s new-found wealth Guyana’s Parliament should offer to fund a digitization process in CARICOM,” the GHRA added.

The Attorney General added that new legislation would see the establishment of an authority and regulatory framework to operationalise the use of the Guyana Resident Card and the Work Permit Card. Reiterating that the electronic cards would be different from those that were being issued by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), he said the new entity would be responsible for the issuance, management and monitoring and regulation of the new ones. “That will be an entire bureaucracy adequately staffed and technologically equipped to do across the country,” he said.  He said the legislation would outline the functions of the card, the purposes for which it can be used and the information and data which would be stored on and be accessible from the card.

Under the new law, government and private sector agencies must accept the card as a means of transacting business. “It will mandate the acceptance of the card by the State, government and private sector entities and will create the infrastructure that will allow for the personal data of persons to be placed on the card and how this data will be verified and used by the various agencies that will interact with the card,” he said.

Mr Nandlall did not rule out amendments to related laws to allow for the smooth operationalisation and use of the card. He said already the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has dispatched legislation from other countries where a similar card system has been implemented. “These legislation will be reviewed and will be drawn from in the preparations of one that will be suitable for Guyana,” he said.

As an example, he said the new Guyana Resident Card and Work Permit Card would rule out the need for persons to present multiple documents to commercial banks. The intended legislation is intended to have protective safeguards against cyber-security threats and the scheme of the legislation will be consistent with the government’s policy of increasing our efficiency in conducting commercial transactions and also will enhance and complement our requirements under the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) infrastructure,” he said.

The card is expected to include a lifetime identification number, biodata, fingerprints, tax information and blood type.

Barbados has digitised its National Identification Card system. A previous attempt by Jamaica had been successfully challenged on constitutional grounds dealing with privacy and freedom of movement.