Russian plans to introduce new ID-system

By EDRi · January 28, 2004

The Russian government is considering a new system of personal registration for all citizens. In 2006 all Russians will be assigned a unique universal identifier. On 15 January 2004 the deputy minister of economical development Andrei Sharonov told journalists that the original proposal had been prepared by his ministry and the government supported this idea. The ID will be printed (most likely as a bar code) in all identifying documents that people obtain from government, like internal passports and driver licenses. Each person will get his/her ID after birth, the rest will get their identifiers gradually when contacting various governmental bodies.

The idea is to make all personal information (including sensitive data like income) available for easy analysis in one commonly accessible data system. Since 1996 at least 18 different government databases have been developed for voting, taxation, social security, medical, military service and other purposes. These databases are not connected with each other. With the new ID system the Russian government hopes to achieve progress in three main spheres: social and pension insurance, taxation and investigation of crimes. It is not clear yet whether all information is to be accumulated in one huge database or connected trough existing bases.

The governmental initiative has raised concerns among experts. The main issue is the lack of data protection in Russia. In this country many privacy-sensitive data about private persons and organisations are widely dispersed: databases on car owners, passport data, data about property, tax payments, home phone numbers and addresses, data about people wanted for crimes and those who have been convicted earlier. CDs with these databases are easily available at the black market and on the internet for $5-10. Although the Constitution guarantees privacy, the law enforcement bodies refer to lack of legislation and do nothing to protect people’s privacy. There is neither a law on personal data nor a data commissioner (or commission) in Russia.

The governmental plans do not foresee in any obligations concerning access of third parties to the collected data. Quite the opposite. In addition to the original proposal the government declared its intention to ‘examine’ the opportunity for companies to access information about private persons.

“I’m afraid that the information of this central database may become available to everyone who is interested in it. Such data as nationality, belief, political party membership should only be collected on a voluntary and anonymous basis. The procedure must be determined by law, including conditions of data transfer from one governmental agency to the other. This is the situation in Europe and in the US. But here in Russia we don’t even have a law on protection of personal data,” noted Lev Levinson, expert of Institute for Human Rights.

The government plans to prepare all technical specifications for the new ID system and appoint a responsible agency within 5 months.

The report of the deputy minister of economical development Andrei Sharonov (in Russian)

(Contribution by Sergei Smirnov, Human Rights Network)