March 23, 2017 -
The Australian government is operating a private beta test of a new digital identity platform designed for users of online government services to provide authentication without having to continuously resubmit their identifying documents, according to a report by InnovationAus.com.
Using Govpass, which is set to be launched in a public beta in early 2018, people will be able to complete their identification process by providing their personal details, an identification document such as a birth certificate or drivers’ license and uploading a selfie.
Once this initial enrollment is completed, users will receive a digital pass that will serve as a form of authentication for other government organizations and services.
Developed by and initially operated by the Digital Transformation Agency, Govpass leverages the existing Document Verification Service, and introduces a biometric aspect that uses face verification service (FVS).
The FVS was launched in November to initially provide the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Federal Police access to millions of citizen images retained by the country’s immigration department, however, was never designed with expansion in mind.
In a DTA blog, Govpass policy lead Drew Andison announced the service but made no mention of the use of biometrics.
However, the initial Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) for Govpass, which was initially called the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF), describes how the service checks the user’s image against the FVS for one time only before it is permanently deleted.
“Facial recognition is, like many other aspects of the Govpass project, still being discussed with our government and non-government stakeholders,” a DTA spokesperson said. “Users would be able to access more complex government services online if they choose.”
Other government agencies will be provided access to the service, while images from visa, passport and drivers’ licences are expected to be added in the future.
In the beginning stages of the rollout, Govpass will provide access to several simple government services. However, the DTA will later expand on this capability by enabling more complicated online transactions that would normally require people to visit a government office.
In terms of privacy protection, the DTA said that the exchange of information between a verifier and a government agency will be facilitated through a gateway connecting the government service with the verifier.
As a result, the government agency using the verification service will not be able to view the user’s documents, and all identifying documents submitted during the digital pass creation stage will be deleted as soon as they are authenticated.
The DTA has posted a video explaining how Govpass will work.