The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity

Civil Registration Centre for Development, The Hague and the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, Johannesburg

The Regulation of identification: Where to Globally From Here?

The global regime regulating registration and identification policy and practice is currently rapidly changing, under several sources of influence. This paper addresses the effects of registration systems on administrative capacity and state architectures and explores the limits and capacities of privatised registration, privacy law and regulation within South African and transnational contexts. The South African regime is significant as a complex of laws of registration, identity, citizenship and migration have historically been influential throughout Southern Africa and the world. Recent South African developments have pushed its regimes in directions simultaneously of transparency, secrecy, and privacy. It is likely that a domestic information regulator will begin to operate in South Africa in 2015, implementing already enacted legislation. The South African case demonstrates that developments in the transnational regulation of privacy are likely to be influential in the regulation of identification and registration. Indeed, close and instructive parallels that could be drawn between the differing regulatory regimes for the protection of privacy and those regarding registration and identity promotion and protection. The ‘older (often pen- and paper-based) state systems for establishing and recording civil registration events: births, deaths, marriages, divorces especially’ may be likened to privacy policy tools of legal instruments and regulatory agencies. The ‘newer computerised registration systems, the increasing use of advanced biometrics, and sometimes a connection to firms providing financial services’ may be likened to the privacy policy tool of self-regulation. A third set of privacy policy tools -- regulation by technology – building “privacy rules into the machinery and protocols of the communication flows dealing with personal data” – might be associated with either the ‘older’ or the ‘newer’ civil registration and identity systems.

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The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity