Criminalizing harmless behavior — like failing to report card damage or to fully share non-essential information — is a dangerous abuse of power.
Providing any kind of “False Information” and failing to notify the Authority if a card is lost, stolen, or damaged are both considered criminal offences under the current Bill. There is a lot of information collected by the Authority that is irrelevant to identify a person, and enrolling in NIDS is supposed to be voluntary and optional. Why should people that failed to provide certain personal details or to report damage to their ID card be punished?
These are examples of what the NIDS Bill allows. These examples may not necessarily reflect the intention of the Bill, but are possible based on how the Bill was worded when it was tabled in 2020.
According to Section 10(7), a person commits a criminal offence if they give false information when providing, modifying, or confirming data for an entry to the National Identification Databases, or when obtaining or replacing a National Identification Card. While people are encouraged to be truthful, a decision to not share full details of life should not be a criminal offence, especially given that most of the identity information that the Authority will be empowered to require for enrolment is not necessary to establish a person’s legal identity, such as their occupation, place of residence, or marital status, among others.
Providing false information should only be considered an offence if it is essential information (like the name, for example) that undermines the Authority's capacity to accurately establish an identity.
Section 16(12) of the current Bill also says that a person who fails to notify the Authority of the loss, theft, or damage of a National Identification Card “without reasonable excuse” commits an offence. This means that even not reporting that your dog chewed your ID card, or that it was lost during a party, running, or any other possible situation, will be prosecutable.
Criminalizing this kind of failure to report far exceeds what is a reasonable use of the State’s power, especially considering participation in the system is supposed to be voluntary and optional. Under further review, such an offence would most likely be found in violation of human rights and the constitution, and the stipulation should be deleted.
Watch this space! We will provide an update once the Joint Select Committee has made a decision on this issue.
Last updated 2021-05-27
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