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Critics of Australia’s Identity Verification Services bill want consistent privacy laws

Critics of Australia’s Identity Verification Services bill want consistent privacy laws

Australia’s digital ID laws are out of alignment, say opponents of the federal government’s push to be able to legally operate document and facial verification systems. A report from InnovationAus.com says the Greens and the coalition, which includes the Liberal Party and the center-right Nationals, want the government to bring privacy protections in its pending Identity Verification Services (IVS) Bill up to the standards of the proposed Digital ID Bill.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, composed of members from all parties, issued eleven formal recommendations on how to improve the IVS Bill. These include the establishment of a rulemaking authority to strengthen privacy standards, an amendment to the IVS Bill to to only include express consent and not implied consent, and an amendment to ensure individuals are notified of any data breach that is likely to cause serious harm.

However, the committee stops short of previous calls by human rights and privacy think tanks organizations to make the IVS Bill and the Digital ID Bill identical, conceding that the two bills “serve a different purpose and provide a different regulatory framework”. Among discrepancies is an allowance for the use of one-to-many facial recognition – limited to the purpose of protecting those with a legally assumed identity, but still more than previous laws have allowed.

All this does not sit well with Greens Senator David Shoebridge, whose dissenting opinion argues that since the Digital ID Bill relies on the IVS to cover the use of the Document Verification Service and Face Verification Service, privacy rules and regulations in the two laws should match. His requested amendments have already circulated and will be formally raised next time the bill is debated.

Furthermore, says Shoebridge, the process is being rushed to the government’s advantage. “There is a very real concern that this bill is being so aggressively pursued by the government because it knows the existing regime is unlawful and subject to legal challenge,” he writes in his dissenting report. Liberal Senator Paul Scarr echoes this concern, calling the legal process to date “shambolic and less than satisfactory.”

Australia’s biometric ID verification systems may have been operating illegally for four years.

NAB all-in on digital identity, and conveniently has a solution for you

Meanwhile in the private sector, National Australia Bank (NAB) has released a paper supporting interoperable digital ID for all Australians, following the launch of its ConnectID system with Australia Payments Plus.

Digital Identity Services for Australians: A NAB Imperative says that Australia needs an interoperable digital identity ecosystem wherein “Australians can choose the provider that they most trust (whether that’s NAB through the ConnectID solution, myGovID, a state government app, or another trusted and regulated provider), and then use that to get all the services they need – whether accessing a government service, renting a home, onboarding for a new job, or proving age for a sale or delivery service.”

“This will be increasingly crucial – for our customers, for the economy at large, and for ourselves at NAB – and we are proud to step forward in helping to drive this journey,” says the statement from NAB. In the bank’s view, the importance of digital ID is threefold: reducing the risks that customers face from criminal activity in identity theft and impersonation, supporting the increased productivity of the Australian economy, of which digital identity is a crucial enabler, and strengthening customer relationships.

One can assume from its closing statement, however, that the biggest practical stake it has in digital ID is as a provider.

“We need choice in Australia’s digital ID ecosystemv from the outset as this will ultimately lead to better outcomes for the system as a whole,” NAB says. “ Our concerns remain that an emphasis only on government digital ID providers will see diminished participation, and that Australian digital identity won’t reach its full potential. We’re stepping forward to provide Australians choice, and to ensure our national ecosystem is stronger and safer.”

In other words, if the government can’t make digital ID happen, the banks will be happy to.

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