Brazil attempts to advance unified ID project

The country's federal government wants to make more efforts towards citizen data consolidation.

The unified Brazilian identity card project has shown some signs of life with the announcement of a plan to share biometric data from the electoral registry with the federal government.

This is actually the relaunch of an old project that aims at sharing citizen data held by the central government with other departments that do the same, such as the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE).

The idea is to take advantage of the fact that the TSE is already collecting biometric data from all Brazilian citizens - as voting is mandatory in the country - ahead of the next presidential elections in 2018, when biometry will be used as the single identification method as a means to prevent fraud.

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"When you think of the digital government concept, in the single ID card, what you need to do is to consolidate efforts of all parties involved," Brazilian president Michel Temer said at the event held earlier this week to announce the the renewed partnership between the TSE and central government.

"[The recent agreement between the federal government and TSE] uses the efforts made by the Electoral Justice in the collection of biometric data to deliver public policies with more security and speed, through uniform data collection without any duplication of records and correction of record errors," TSE president Gilmar Mendes says.

Legislation introduced in 1997 determined the merging of the state-level registration systems into a future unified ID registry, but the project never quite got off the ground.

This would require the migration of existing ID cards to a new system, which would have security features such as biometric scanning of fingerprints and face and probably an embedded chip - which would not only store ID, electoral and tax data, but also other information such as traffic fines and citizens' legal history such as lawsuits.

Since each Brazilian state currently has its own records, the current set-up could allow one person to have up to 27 different ID numbers. That lack of a central system also facilitates the use of real ID cards for illegal purposes such as fraud crimes in the financial system as well as government benefits.

One can't help but wonder whether the delay of a project that seems so beneficial in paper has been pushed back for over a decade. Could it be because the current situation is too interesting (and profitable) for the ID issuing machine in Brazil?