To read this content please select one of the options below:

Risking identity: a case study of Jamaica’s short-lived national ID system

Hopeton S. Dunn (Department of Media Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana and Faculty of Humanities, School of Communications, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 2 July 2020

Issue publication date: 4 August 2020




This paper aims to expose the challenges facing the attempt by Jamaica to introduce a new digital ID system without adequate regard to public consultation and the rights of citizens.


The method used is critical text analysis and policy analysis, providing background and relevant factors leading up to the legislative changes under review. Extensive literature sources were consulted and the relevant sections of the Jamaican constitution referenced and analysed.


The case study may have national peculiarities not applicable in other jurisdictions. Its introduction acknowledges that the Jamaican Government may amend and re-submit the legislation, absent the flawed clauses. The paper however will remain valid given its detailed analysis and exposure of risks associated with biometric data collection, face recognition technology and data storage flaws.

Practical implications

It will be a practical example of the risks associated with flawed biometric data collection and the role of Courts in reviewing such legislation. Referrals to the Courts can be used as a remedy, as occurred not only in Jamaica but also in many other jurisdictions, including India and Kenya.

Social implications

The paper foregrounds the rights of citizens to be consulted on the collection and storage of their sensitive biometric data. The social implications and risks of violating the constitutional rights of citizens were made evident, and can be an example to other jurisdictions.


The paper is the first of its kind to provide detailed data and analysis on an outright rejection by the Courts of a country's ID legislation on grounds that it violated the constitution and rights of citizens. It shows the ethical and social challenges in proposing and implementing legislation without adequate public consultation on such sensitive matters as biometric data. It also exposes some of the challenges of artificial intelligence and face recognition technologies in ID data collection, including flaws related to race, gender and coding.



Dunn, H.S. (2020), "Risking identity: a case study of Jamaica’s short-lived national ID system", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 329-338.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles