Imagine an ID card that remembers all of your personal records. This one card serves as your driver’s license and a catch-all that includes information about your health insurance, tax payments, and bank accounts. Oh, and it’s a MasterCard. Now imagine you’re required to have it to vote. By 2019, that will be the case in Nigeria, where the government is running a large-scale pilot program with MasterCard, the U.S. credit card giant. An initial 13 million Nigerians will participate in the pilot program, but all those above the age of 16 — a whopping 160 million people — are expected to carry the cards by 2019.
Nigeria is not the first country to launch a biometric ID card tied to a banking system, this is the first time a major banking institution has so specifically endorsed the use of an ID card. Eventually, the ID system could be used to disburse social benefits, make deposits and withdrawals, and set up savings accounts through local banks partnering with MasterCard for the initiative.But the card has also raised concerns among many Nigerians who worry that the card could compromise their privacy — by making it accessible either to the government or to a hacker. With a massive trove of information stored on each citizen, the card could pose as an attractive target for cyber-criminals looking for personal information.
Gus Hosein, the executive director of U.K.-based civil liberties NGO Privacy International, said these concerns are especially frightening as so far no plan has been presented to protect citizens from having their private data shared with MasterCard.There is good reason why no democratic society permits the creation of such a system, at least not without incredible safeguards,” Hosein said. “Something as precious as your right to participate in elections should never be placed at risk of faulty systems, deployed by people who may be well meaning, but do not understand the risks.”
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