MNIC Project: Fingerprint image still recorded & stored

September 8, 2015

While holding a discussion on the Mauritius Internet Users mailing list regarding the Biometric ID Card, I came across cabinet decisions of 4 September 2015. The document contains decision taken with regards to the MNIC project.

What does the cabinet decision say?

Cabinet has agreed to the extension of the validity period of the old National Identity Card to 31 January 2016 and to the new arrangements being put in place for the registration of new Identity Cards. The issuance of the Identity Card would resume on 14 September 2015 with the following criteria:

(a) the fingerprint image and minutiae collection will continue as previously; (b) the fingerprint image and minutiae will be destroyed upon issuance of the new card; and © only the ID card will contain the minutiae which will be used for one-to-one verification and not for identification purposes.

All new smart identity cards, which have been issued to date, will continue to operate normally without modification.

Now, let’s analyze the details of the decision.

The first criteria says fingerprint image and minutiae will be collected the way it was previously done. Contrary to what I thought, this means that the software hasn’t been modified to adjust the collection procedure for non-storage in a database.

The second criteria says the fingerprint image and minutiae will be destroyed upon issuance of the new card. Thus, meaning, from the time of collection of fingerprint image till the person collects his/her ID Card, the fingerprint image will be stored in the government-owned database. This is the same database that has existed since the beginning of the project, as the first criteria mentions no change in procedure.

Summing it up in just a few words, the fingerprint images are still being stored in a database.

On the other hand, in the Supreme Court case Madhewoo M. vs State of Mauritius, the verdict comprised of the following:

The provisions in the National Identity Card Act and the Data Protection Act for the storage and retention of fingerprints and other personal biometric data collected for the purpose of the biometric identity card of a citizen of Mauritius are unconstitutional.

As a citizen who wants to have clarity on this subject, should I understand that the current procedure of recording & storing of fingerprint image is unconstitutional, yet the Government is going ahead with recording & storing? (/_-)