IGF 2023 WS #513 Governing the interoperability of Digital ID systems


Human Rights & Freedoms
Rights to Access and Information
Technology in International Human Rights Law

Organizer 1: Katelyn Cioffi, Center for Human Rights & Global Justice, NYU Law School
Organizer 2: Laura Bingham, 🔒Temple University
Organizer 3: Juan de Brigard, Fundación Karisma

Speaker 1: Laura Bingham, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Thomas Lohninger, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Katelyn Cioffi, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Hannah Draper, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: Matthew McNaughton, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Laura Bingham, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Juan de Brigard, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Katelyn Cioffi, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

A. How can national and international governance frameworks ensure that there is adequate protection for human rights in the use of interoperable digital ID ecosystems?
B. How do critical technical and legal design choices impact human rights and fundamental freedoms and how can they be redressed?
C. What role can and do different stakeholders, including multinational corporations, international development agencies, and civil society groups play in impacting interoperable digital ID systems?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Although national contexts vary, the issue of interoperability in Digital ID systems is relevant across the board and in every particular instance of use. Therefore, learning from examples of how the issue has been faced in different regions and within different contexts can provide attendants with a broader view of how to face both local difficulties in their particular context, as well as broader questions regarding the implications and impacts of making these systems widely interoperable. The workshop will provide valuable insight into specific systems, as well as examples of specific advocacy strategies that have proven useful in making ID systems more transparent and achieving accountability.


As digital ID systems grow in complexity and usage, there is growing interest in applying foundational systems across sectors and borders or introducing trust frameworks that allow for mutual recognition across systems. It is this ability to foster interoperability and data exchange that forms the basis for many value-add promises of digital ID—including individual benefits of convenience, portability and accessibility, and provider benefits of efficiency, cost savings, scaling up, and fraud prevention. However, many features associated with interoperable systems have been shown to raise significant human rights concerns. Digital ID systems expose enrolled individuals to additional risks and require additional protections to be safe and inclusive. When these are not applied, we see systems in which data exchange leads to profiling and discriminatory treatment; amplification of exclusionary patterns due to flaws and lacunae in foundational systems; and potential for abuse and misuse through surveillance and algorithmic decision-making.

This shift from siloed identification systems to interoperable identification ecosystems, therefore, requires stronger governance frameworks that accounts for legal, organizational, semantic, and technical aspects of interoperability. Yet many of the technical design choices around interoperable digital ID frameworks remain hidden or poorly understood by policymakers, civil society organizations, and researchers—as well as the individuals the systems are meant to serve. Similarly, some fundamental human rights concerns remain underappreciated by technical and legal architects. Bridging the gap between stakeholder groups is necessary to ensure the protection of human rights and attainment of relevant Sustainable Development Goals.

This session aims to contribute to ongoing dialogue around proper governance for interoperable systems. We will bring together experts on technical design, experts on legal frameworks that underpin systems of identification and the enjoyment of human rights, and policymakers in national, regional and international bodies who are currently grappling with the challenges of interoperability.

Expected Outcomes

This workshop aims at giving Civil Society and other interested stakeholders concrete examples as well as tools and/or strategies to face the challenges presented by the interoperability frameworks of Digital ID systems.
As this issue has been deemed as relevant in a wide range of regions across the globe, the Workshop also aims at establishing a working group that can continue the conversation and deepen the research on the specific area of interoperability in Digital ID systems. This working group would hold meetings and continue the engagement to support the broader aim of ensuring that risks and concerns around interoperable systems and the minimum standards are needed for mitigation are mentioned in the same spaces in which the advantages of digital ID systems are discussed.

Hybrid Format: Online participation will be encouraged as a very diverse group of regional representatives will take part in the discussion and not all of the participants will be able to be present at the IGF. The online and onsite moderators will be closely coordinated in order to balance participation on both formats.