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Australia to roll out digital IDs’ biometric features for public testing in 2020

Australia to roll out digital IDs’ biometric features for public testing in 2020

Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has announced the biometric component of its digital ID will be released for public testing in the first half of 2020, writes ZDNet.

While the technology is functioning according to expected parameters, it has not been sent to production because there are still technical issues in facial verification to be dealt with, according to the agency’s CEO Randall Brugeaud who discussed the program during Senate Estimates.

Setting up deadlines for this project is not the best approach, according to DTA CDO Peter Alexander, who explained at Senate Estimates that, despite being tested with real people, it is not yet ready to be publicly released from a security standpoint.

“We would like the biometric to be in by say mid-year, but we wouldn’t pressure that, we would get it right before we put it in, because it is new, it is taking a technology which is relatively well-tested,” Alexander explained. “Lots of people use their iPhone and their various devices and use their face to access it, but the difference is that’s biometrically anchored to your device, that’s a photo you’ve taken and match to that, we’re talking about matching it to your passport or your driver’s license, that one-to-one match.”

The agency has been working on the myGovID digital identity project for more than 18 months, and has roughly spent AU$210 million (US$140 million). Alexander pointed out the importance of solving all issues, rather than rushing the solution to market.

Despite a consistent investment, last October Australians were still unfamiliar with myGovID, the digital identity provider managed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Since then, the agency has been trying to boost interest in the digital identity program. At the time of the article, the app counted 492,936 downloads.

“Having a digital identity which is anchored against the 100-point ID check is very, very useful. The biometrically anchored identity will give us the capacity to provide even more access to services, but the value associated with the 100-point check being able to be done digitally rather than people needing to present their documents … offers significant benefits,” Brugeaud explained during Senate Estimates.

myGovID is similar to the 100-point ID check adopted by the government in the late 80s to fight fraud, only on a smart device.

The Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs meanwhile suggested the DTA come up with “minimum requirements for privacy, safety, security, data handling, usability, accessibility, and auditing of age-verification providers” and use the digital ID solution to implement plans to verify age for pornographic content.

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