Digital Democracy

What the World's First Big Data Project Tells Us About the Future of Identity

Imagine a centralized database replete with your personal information that links together your and your family’s vital health, education, and social welfare records. Now imagine the database includes an entire country’s population.

Fifty years ago this year, Denmark launched the world's first nationalized big data project. The country's Civil Personal Registration (CPR) system assigns every resident a "digital ID" that directly connects them with the Danish state to facilitate government-citizen interactions from birth to death and everywhere in between. Originally created to render tax collection  and the distribution of social benefits more efficient, the system has become a popular and benevolent instrument in Denmark built on the values of trust in government and sense of community.

Now similar data infrastructures—often built by private sector platforms—are being applied across the globe, but in a climate in which data breaches are growing more frequent and more severe, their implications must adapt to the opportunities—and account for the challenges—of twenty-first century technology. How can citizens ensure their personal data isn't vulnerable to hacking and that their privacy rights are being upheld? What safeguards must government and the private sector take on to guarantee data is used and stored securely? What do CPR-modeled platforms mean for the future of digital democracy?

Join New America NYC, in partnership with the Consulate General of Denmark in New York and Columbia University's European Institute, for a set of conversations on the past, present, and future of digital identity—and the measures we need in place to ensure its use for good.


Elana Broitman @elanabroitman
Director, New America NYC

Tom Freston
Board Member and Chair, New America NYC Advisory Council


Ambassador Jonas Bering-Liisberg
State Secretary for Foreign Policy, Kingdom of Denmark


Mikkel Hagen Hess @mikkelhess
Director, Invest in Denmark, North America

Don Thibeau @4thibeau
Executive Director, OpenID Foundation

Zia Khan @ZiaKhanNYC
Vice President, Initiatives and Strategy, The Rockefeller Foundation

Michael Ibach
Chief Analytics Officer, United Nations

Tara Nathan @Thetaranation
Executive Vice President, Public-Private Partnerships, MasterCard

Louise Matsakis @lmatsakis
Staff writer, WIRED 


Rebecca MacKinnon @rmack
Director, Ranking Digital Rights, New America

Jacob Mchangama @JMchangama
Founder and CEO, Justitia

John Paul Farmer @johnpaulfarmer
Director, Technology and Civic Innovation, Microsoft

Amanda Graham @BCCBlockchain
Co-founder and Chief Services Officer, Blockchain for Change

David K. Park @davidchungpark
Dean of Strategic Initiatives, Arts & Sciences, and Faculty Member, Data Science Institute, Columbia University

Natasha Singer @natashanyt
Technology reporter, The New York Times 

Join the conversation online by using #CPR50 and by following @NewAmericaNYC and @DenmarkinNY.

This event is presented in partnership with the Consulate General of Denmark in New York with additional support from the European Institute at Columbia University.