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Australia still plugging gaps identified in digital ID system in 2019

More biometrics use recommended
Australia still plugging gaps identified in digital ID system in 2019

An until-now unseen report from over three years ago suggests major changes to Australia’s digital ID system, some of which appear to be underway, while others remain even further off. The government will have to take a number of deep measures, including more use of biometrics for identity verification and the expansion of the use of facial recognition technology beyond the public sector, for its digital ID ecosystem to better serve the purpose for which it is intended.

This is among 26 recommendations from an independent review of the country’s digital ID system which was completed and handed to the federal government in 2019, but which was never made public until now, iTnews reveals.

The outlet obtained the 92-page review report under freedom of information laws. The review, iTnews notes, was steered by former Attorney-General’s Department secretary Roger Wilkins and David Lacey, managing director of identity theft and cyber support firm IDcare.

According to the review, Australia’s current digital ID system is not fit for a future of many online transactions as it contains many “weaknesses and deficiencies.”

Issues of inconvenience and data safety are also pointed out in the review: “The model indicates that the current Australian system has a lower level of integrity and utility, and a higher level of friction than most other countries such as Israel and New Zealand. The lower integrity level within the Australian system is a reflection of the limited use of biometrics to proof, verify and authenticate identity,” a portion of the report states.

As the review notes, expanding the use of facial recognition to the private sector will enable the what it characterizes as ‘skinny identity’ which requires that only a handful of attributes such as a person’s name, date of birth and biometric identifier should constitute their “core identity.”

While the review calls on government to extend the use of facial recognition to private entities as early as it can, it however proposes that its use should be consensual and guided by law.

Highlighting the importance of biometrics for security, a section of the review notes: “The use of a biometrics also provides a much greater level of security and certainly about a person’s identity that the current reliance on a collection of documents. It also makes it easier and more convenient to check an identity at any point in the process.”

The government facial recognition service finally reached the tender stage in January.

Apart from suggesting what it calls a “core credential” system which will enable Australians have access to a number of documents from a single platform, the review also calls for the setting up of an Office for Identity Protection and Management (OIPM) in the Department of Home Affairs, which will be handed the responsibility of leading all digital ID policy.

Digital ID efforts in Australia are ongoing at the federal level, while states and territories such as NSW have each been making individual efforts to fully concretize their digital ID plans.

Australia’s federal digital ministers recently recommitted to “actively explore” digital ID implementation in the country, soon after state and territory governments committed to working with the federal government.

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