Exploring the Implications of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for Digital Identity Technologies
According to the World Bank, over 1.1 billion people do not currently possess a legally recognized form of identification. Without identity verification, these individuals struggle to assert their basic rights as outlined in the UDHR, including the right to recognition as a person before the law (Article 6). Such exclusion not only perpetuates cycles of poverty, but violates the notions of equality and universality upheld by the Declaration. A number of digital identity initiatives have emerged in recent years to tackle this problem. But while digital identities can foster economic, social, and political inclusion, they also come with significant risks. These developments raise important questions around the impact of emerging technologies on human rights, particularly aspects of Article 12—“no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy.” What does “privacy” mean in an increasingly digitalized world? Does it encompass informational privacy, or individual control over personal data? How do the notions of protection, consent, and choice fit into broader paradigms around human dignity and security? Exploring the UDHR through the lens of digital identities, this article delves into these questions, revealing the necessity of expanding our analysis of digital identities to consider these crucial human rights implications.