Exploring identity as 'taonga' in the digital space

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

How can Māori individuals and organisations protect their identity and information in the digital era? These are the issues being explored at the Identity Conference at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.

Master of Ceremonies for the conference, Kaye-Maree Dunn says, “Technology is all-pervasive, many of these global companies are taking our information without our permission so what are we actually going to do about that and how are we going to apply pressure to government and other organisations to support us to identity and information as citizens?”

Individual and personal data is being collected every day through many online platforms, by government and non-government entities.

“What are these powerful corporate entities doing around our identity?  I think we need to be asking a lot of questions, I think we need to be joining forums and I actually think more Māori, other iwi, need to be sending their people to conferences like this so that we can actually listen and actually contribute and challenge,” says Maree-Dunn.

In the ever-changing digital realm, there are many benefits, but also many risks.  The Identity Conference attracted speakers and services seeking to safeguard people's online identity.

Attending the conference to gain insight for the ‘Atea Spearhead’ research project, Dr. Paora Mato from The University of Waikato says, “It's about protecting ... not just yourself but the people that your data impacts on, that you impact on, the organisations that you actually use.”

Conference attendee Mahi Pourini says, “We talk about scammers, identity theft, it's already occurring.  So, for example, I get at least about five phone calls every week.  The risk's already here so how do we mitigate these types of opportunistic behaviour by different industry and firms who are looking to commercialise our data.”

Relevant to these developing trends is looking at how iwi can be leaders in the area and play a role in protecting the information of tribal members in the vast landscape of data-mining.

Maree Dunn says, "Again, if we are not at the helm of engineering, managing, controlling the systems that suck in our data and information, where does leave us, as Māori?”

The conference raised as many questions as it answered.  One thing is certain, these technological changes cannot be avoided and must be embraced.