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Australia unveils plans for universal digital ID and AI taskforce

Australia unveils plans for universal digital ID and AI taskforce

Australian Finance and Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher unveiled the government’s draft legislation on a universal digital ID in a speech Tuesday, aiming to streamline Australians’ interaction with government and third-party organizations through a single government-run identification platform.

The platform would consolidate various official ID documents, such as passports and driver’s licenses, enhancing efficiency in accessing services and potentially improving assistance during emergencies.

The current digital ID, MyGovID, used by over 10.5 million Australians to access 130 services across 40 different government agencies, is limited to accessing government services and verifying individuals biometrically against their passports. The proposed universal system aims to allow for a national, economy-wide biometric identity verification system.

While targeting a reduction in identity crime, which currently affects one in five Australians, the initiative also aims to mitigate data breaches, a top concern for three-quarters of Australians according to an Office of the Australian Information Commissioner survey. The new system is intended to limit data breaches by restricting hackers’ access to personal information. Australians will no longer have to hand over documents to private companies. Despite the planned safeguards, critics fear that centralizing sensitive data might pose additional data breach threats.

Ensuring the voluntary nature of participation and inclusivity remains a priority in the digital transformation, with alternative non-digital channels continuing to be available and per-use opt-in permissions available.

According to news.com.au, the announcement was welcomed by Simon Bush, the chief executive of IT industry group the Australian Information Industry Association.

“We have been urging the Federal Government to adopt a Digital ID to improve service delivery and interoperability with other departments and states that will benefit all Australians,” Bush said.

“The proposed legislation will provide strong regulation for accredited Digital ID providers to make sure they keep your information private and secure if you choose to create and reuse a Digital ID to access online services.”

Gallagher has initiated a three-week consultation period for the draft bill, aiming to launch the final version later this year.

A new AI taskforce and new insights on AI and trust

Gallagher also announced plans to set up an AI task force to help ensure government agencies can use AI safely and responsibly. The task force will examine the risks and benefits of using different AI systems in public service.

Along with the new task force, Gallagher also announced an upcoming release of the first long-term insights brief on AI and Trust, bringing together feedback from experts within the public service, community, academia, industry and the not-for-profit sectors.

“It’s a balancing act to harness the best we can from the technology while establishing boundaries and safeguards.

AI is one such technology that requires us to get on the front foot and establish some practical guidance to agencies.”

Bills specific to biometric ID verification have also been introduced in Australia’s parliament, which would reduce one-to-many checks and data sharing.

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