«Here I stand before you, as if naked…»
On 6 September the Verkhovna Rada voted at different stages on a number of draft laws which concern human rights: on countering discrimination; improving the work of the Prosecutor’s Office; biometric documents; amendments to the Personal Data Act and others. All of them, we are assured, are aimed at meeting the requirements of the EU Visa Liberalization Action Plan or of the Council of Europe. In fact, however, they either only partially meet these requirements or do not improve the human rights situation or on the contrary flagrantly violate these rights. For example, draft Law No. 10492 on a Single State Demographic Register, passed at its first reading, flagrantly infringes the right to privacy. We will endeavour here to demonstrate that.
A Single universal individual code
A personal identification number was introduced in 1997 for tax purposes however this has gradually begun to be used in other spheres. It determines passport details, is used for pension matters, is the key for access to personal vehicle registers, records of criminal convictions and a number of other registers. Without it you can’t open an account in the bank or get a document notarized. Privatization papers, shares, loans, insurance, purchases of property are all directly linked with this number. It is even added to a person’s passport, though it is unclear for what purpose. The SBU [SBU] should call that subversive behaviour since foreign security services get the chance to collect Ukrainians’ ID and tax numbers.
Over the last 15 years the tax number has de facto become the general individual code in all government and non-government registers.
Legalization of the gathering of personal data
In June 2009 the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a Concept Framework for the development of a State information system for keeping a register of individuals and their documentation. According to this Concept Framework, unlike in any other European country, the passport and registration processes are merged into one, while information within the system “is used for taking decisions regarding State demographic and social policy; implementing tasks on reducing the crime level; increasing the security of the public and of the country as a whole”. Draft Law No. 10492 is supposed to establish at the level of the law the gathering and retention of personal data according to a single universal individual code, as well as the issue of biometric documents identifying a person. It would be good if this was only passports so as to get across borders as quickly as possible. The International Civil Aviation Organization requires that passports are read by a machine. However besides passports, the draft law also introduces 13 other biometric documents, some of which are intended for use within the country such as Ukrainians’ internal passport [identify document] and driving licence. Yet where do we have the machines capable of reading the information? Only border guards have this. And who has calculated whether the state coffers of a country which is not well-off can afford such expensive technology for producing biometric documents? How much will it cost Ukrainians to periodically receive these (according to the draft law an internal passport must be renewed every 10 years)? These are questions for which there are no answers.
The creation of a single register masks the merger of all personal data of people living in the country from various databases, including official, into one single database, with this now on an entirely legal basis. A person will have no idea what information about them has been gathered for an unspecified period and unclear purpose. Such actions by the State are a flagrant violation of Article 32 of the Constitution, international agreements and the Personal Data Protection Act. Not to mention the poor protection of this data since it remains possible without any great difficulty to obtain fresh copies of tax number databases.
With the adoption of this draft bill and fully-fledged implementation of the above-mentioned Convention, Ukrainians’ lives under the close scrutiny of the State could quite easily become hell, as in the imaginary dialogue here.
Ordering a pizza (end of 2017)
The metallic voice of an electronic operator: “Thank you for your call to our telephone pizza order service.”
– I’d like to make an urgent order.
– Please give me you ID number.
– Thank you Mr Mykhailo Mykhailovych Petrenko. You live in Kyiv on Moskowska St, no. 15, flat number 15 and work at the Volya Cable company on 27 Raduzhna St. Your home phone number is 111111, your work number – 222222, and your mobile number is 3333333333. You’ve phoned from your home line so would you like the pizza to be delivered to your home?
– Yes, I’m at home right now. But how do you know all those telephone numbers?
– We’re connected to the State Information System.
– OK, do you have pizzas with meat and mushrooms?
– We don’t think that would suit you.
– Why not?
– According to the Health Ministry records you have high blood pressure and a high level of cholesterol.
– OK, so what can I have?
– We’re sure you’ll like our soya-yoghurt pizza.
– Why on earth that?
– Last week you ordered a recipe book for a soya diet on the Internet, and last month you bought a yoghurt blender.
– Right, and how much does that pizza cost?
– You’re at home with your wife and two children so you’ll need to order two large pizzas which will cost 200 UAH.
– OK, I’ll pay by credit card, I’ll give you the number.
– According to information from your bank, your account is in overdraft so you’ll have to pay cash.
– It’s good that I managed to get a bit of money out of the cash machine.
– Going by information from the cash machine and about your previous purchases, you won’t be able to pay for home delivery of the pizza, but you can pick up your order yourself.
– Give me the address and I’ll come by car in half an hour.
– You’d better use your bike. You haven’t renewed your mandatory car insurance and therefore aren’t allowed to drive it.
– …..! I completely forgot.
– You should watch your language – you’re still within the administrative penalty period imposed for foul language in the metro which the surveillance system detected.
– The customer sniffs into the receiver.
– Good, your order’s been received and will be ready in half an hour. Anything else?
– Nothing, but your advertisement promised a free bottle of Pepsi for each pizza bought.
– Sorry, but the Pension Fund’s Directive prohibits us from giving that drink to people inclined to diabetes like yourself.
How is it elsewhere?
Use of multi-purpose identification numbers considerably simplifies the carrying out of State functions. The numbers themselves are convenient and economical means of increasing efficiency of governance. They were therefore introduced in many countries in the 1960s-1980s. However people realised that that would lead to a considerable increase in the influence of the State on people’s privacy. Civil society in most countries got restrictions on these projects and adoption of laws on protecting personal data. There are, for example, well-known judgements from the Constitutional Court of Germany stating that the introduction of a personal ID number can pose a threat to human dignity. Hungary’s Constitutional Court found the introduction of a singe ID number to be a violation of the right to privacy and the single number was cancelled. Article 35 of Portugal’s Constitution links a ban on sharing information between databases with the ban on giving residents of the country a single identifier. In Australia a draft plan for giving each holder of a personal card an identification number was rejected, and the use of tax numbers significantly restricted. New Zealand decided against introducing a single number after mass public protests for religious reasons. When the Social Insurance Number [SIN] in Canada became the most commonly used personal ID number, the Federal Government stated that it would prevent it turning into a universal ID number. Since 1988 any new use of the number has only been possible with parliament’s agreement. They usually speak of widespread use of the analogous number in the USA, however in fact in the US there are 16 different types of ID numbers and the law prohibits ministries and official departments sharing information among themselves without the consent of the person. There are plenty of other examples.
In my opinion biometric documentation should be restricted to passports and draft Law No. 10492 should be brought into line with the Constitution and Personal Data Protection Act.. It should clearly stipulate the purpose of creating a demographic register; the purpose of processing personal data; the grounds for inserting data into a register, the scale of the information inserted and scale of biometric information with the exclusion of a digital signature.