WORRIES OVER PRIVACY AND SECURITY OVERSHADOW PERCEIVED BENEFITS FOR COMMERCE, TRADE AND PROSECUTION
CYBER EXPERTS are weighing the pros and cons of a draft law about digital identification that will allow government agencies to collect citizens’ digital ID.
Some pointed to the benefits of the proposed new legislation for both the digital economy and society while others voiced concern over security and privacy issues.
The Digital Identification Bill was approved by the Cabinet in principle last week and is expected to be passed by the National Legislative Assembly and take effect by the middle of next year, according to its drafters.
Under the proposed new law, a National Digital Identification (NDID) company will be set up to build a so-called NDID Platform, which will be a technology platform to identify and authenticate the digital ID of people. The NDID will issue licences to identification providers (IDP) to provide easy and secure digital identification for online transactions.
Paiboon Amonpinyokeat, a cyber-law expert, said the bill would establish regulations for online ID authentication and could strengthen cybersecurity. The law would help the government build database of people’s online ID, he added.
The government can collect identification authentication information and allow state agencies and the courts to use this information for prosecution in case of an offence or for posing a threat to the government’s system.
“In the past, there were no rules; it was difficult to investigate who had committed a wrongdoing,” Paiboon, who is the founder and legal counsellor of P&P Law Firm, said.
Though the Internet service provider, mobile operator and social media platforms like Facebook and Google have online identity authentication, it is difficult to seek information from them when the government wants to investigate or file a lawsuit.
Financial sector to gain
He said it might be difficult to enforce this law, as most identification authentication providers are foreign companies, like PayPal, Facebook and Google.
Prinya Hom-Anek, an expert on cybersecurity, said the bill would help the legal authentication of digital identification, which could be used as e-evidence in court.
On the economic side, the bill is expected to benefit the financial sector and other industries, especially the government sector, that need digital identity authentication, said Bhume Bhumiratana, an adviser to the committee who drafted the Digital ID bill and a member of the working committee that designed the NDID system.
“It will cost less to get people identification authentication,” said Bhume.
The digital ID bill will enable people to open accounts and seek lending via the Internet or a smartphone.
Once this bill becomes a law, everyone can feel secure when doing online transactions as all transactions which need face-to-face for authentication will be moved online once the technology is ready may be in a year, he added.
For society, the bill would make it easier and more reliable for the public to collect names, make inquiries or lodge complaints, the bill drafter said.
It also can be linked to education and healthcare and make it easier to identify students and patients.
People will have their digital IDs on many IDPs and they can choose which one they want to use for a particular transaction.
Asked if the law could be implemented for an election, he said it was possible but the matter was more sensitive. “Election is not only about identity authentication, but a digital ID authentication can be used as part of the election process. For example, instead of presenting their ID cards, people might identify themselves with a mobile phone,” Bhume said.
Predee Daochai, chairman of the Thai Bankers’ Association, said that the law would help the entire process of digital ID authentication and proof to be more solid and trustworthy and acceptable to all stakeholders, both government and private sector.
It will encourage digital transactions, increase the number and efficiency of digital transactions while reducing the cost of operation, he said.
It would facilitate the digital transition, while helping increase the ease of doing business for the country, Predee said.
However, there are some concerns about the bill.
Cybersecurity risk is a point that remains an issue of concern although the NDID has been designed to be difficult for hacking, Bhume said.
Paiboon pointed out that the bill gives wide coverage to identification authentication, including PIN code, e-signature, fingerprint, username and password and so on.
To collect these types of identification authentication, which is personal data, into a portal manned by the government would raise issues of privacy violation, he added.
“The principle of taking care of people’s digital ID should be tied up with the Personal Data Protection Bill,” said Paiboon.
Prinya asked how reliable and secure the system would be, as well as how the concept of the bill would be implemented successfully in the real world.
What is the benefit of the new digital ID platform for all government organisations as they already have their own digital ID database? he asked.
Poomjit Sirawongprasert, president of the Thai Hosting Club, said that digital ID would help reduce offline fake ID cards, as faking a card is made easy but hard to prove.
But she was concerned about the accuracy of the identity authentication algorithm as once the algorithm is wrong, the onus would be on the people to prove that they are not the ones accused of the wrongdoing.
The Digital ID bill is one of bills issued by the government to promote a digital economy and society. Another important bill, the Cybersecurity bill, will be going before the Cabinet for consideration by the end of this month.