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Fact Check: Dan Bongino – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation not spending $200 million on digital IDs

Wild claims about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are nothing novel on the internet — PolitiFact has checked several in the past. 

In a new claim shared on Facebook, conservative commentator and radio host Dan Bongino says the foundation and half of its namesake, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, have dedicated $200 million toward international digital IDs as part of a shift toward a “totalitarian society.” The video is a snippet from Bongino’s radio show that aired Oct. 11.

“I have been warning over and over and over and over about this. We are looking at a surveillance future,” Bongino said. 

He says digital IDs are a move toward the establishment of a “totalitarian society” because they enable a government to track a person’s every movement and have a complete record of someone’s life.

The video was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.).

A Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spokesperson told PolitiFact that Bongino’s claims misrepresent a financial commitment the organization made to build digital public infrastructure in developing nations. 

The foundation said in September 2022 that it was working with several governments, philanthropic foundations and nongovernmental organizations to commit $1.27 billion toward several global health and development initiatives. 

The commitments include $912 million toward fighting AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; $50 million toward health scholarships; and $100 million toward addressing food crises in Africa and South Asia.

The Gates Foundation said $200 million of the money is earmarked for digital public infrastructure that will help developing nations address food and health crises through several types of technologies, not just digital IDs. 

The infrastructure includes tools such as interoperable payment systems, digital ID, data exchange systems and databases of records such as birth and death certificates, a foundation spokesperson said in an email. No specific amount has been allocated to such individual components as digital ID, the spokesperson added.

We contacted Bongino for comment but did not receive a reply. 

A digital ID is a form of electronic identification that lets people  identify themselves through an internet or mobile network connection, according to the ID2020, a nonprofit organization partially supported by Microsoft and the Gates Foundation-backed Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. 

One form of digital ID, a mobile driver’s license, is already being used in Arizona. Several other states are preparing to implement or are considering mobile driver’s licenses, The Washington Post reported in 2021. 

The American Civil Liberties Union has outlined privacy and accessibility concerns about digital IDs but said they could be worthwhile if proper protections and third-party access limitations are in place. 

Digital IDs are still in their infancy, and ID2020 said a well-implemented ID program would ensure a person’s “rights to privacy, security and choice.”

Our ruling

Bongino says the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $200 million for digital IDs as part of a shift toward a “totalitarian society.”

The foundation earmarked $200 million for building digital public infrastructure in developing nations, including data-sharing systems, databases for birth and death certificates and digital IDs. 

The foundation is not allocating a specific dollar amount for any one component of its commitment, a spokesperson said.

We rate this claim False. 

Source: PolitiFact.