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In South Africa, 17.2 million beneficiaries of social grants receive biometric smart cards.Biometric data stored in one social-protection program database can easily be linked to other systems using a common identifier, even those unrelated to social protection, such as for law enforcement or commercial marketing. In most European countries, however, such database integration is prohibited, owing to the threat it poses to privacy and data protection. After all, social-assistance programs require the processing of significant amounts of data, including sensitive information like household assets, health status and disabilities.Pressure to share sensitive social-protection data, including biometric identifiers, with law enforcement domestically, as well as internationally is compounded by concerns about terrorism and migration.Add the risk of negligent data disclosure or unauthorized third-party access including by cybercriminals and hackers and social-protection beneficiaries could also be exposed to stigmatization, extortion or blackmail.Then there is the possibility that access to sensitive social-protection data, including biometric information, will be given or sold to private companies. The threat to social-protection beneficiaries is not eliminated even when data are accessible only to government.The lack of regard for privacy and data protection in social-assistance programs should not come as a surprise.
Fiscal injustice has a woman’s face, for the time being
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