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Australia wants to include more providers in national digital ID scheme

Australia wants to include more providers in national digital ID scheme

The Australian government is working on expanding the national digital ID system to include more digital ID providers – and making it safer.

Legislators are currently working on the Digital ID Bill to ensure the digital ID system is consistent by establishing an Accreditation Scheme that will help companies and businesses provide digital ID services.

“The Bill will require Digital ID providers to meet high standards of security, privacy protection and fraud controls to be accredited. This means greater consumer protection,” says First Assistant Secretary from the Department of Finance, John Shepherd.

Australia’s Parliament introduced the Digital ID in late 2023, paving the way for the rollout of the nationwide digital ID system which has been tentatively set for July 1, 2024.

The system is meant to allow users to choose their preferred digital ID provider for accessing government and private services. Companies such as Australia Post, MasterCard and OCR Labs (IDVerse) have already received accreditation for providing digital ID services, while banks and other institutions have expressed interest.

In an interview with ChannelNews Australia, former New South Wales Government Minister Victor Dominello dismissed suggestions that having multiple digital ID providers will result in unnecessary duplication.

“A regulated ecosystem is always better than having a monopoly,” says Dominello. “When you provide people with choice, you’re less prone to complete system failure. Having alternative players in the market is generally healthier for the ecosystem.”

The Department of Finance completed a legislation committee inquiry on the Digital ID Bill on February 9th. The next step for legislators will be a report on the Digital ID Bill 2023 from the Senate Economics Legislation Committee slated for late February 2024.

Meanwhile, this week the country introduced a digitized Commonwealth statutory declaration, a legal document that’s used for visa applications, insurance claims, employment and leave applications and more. Australians will be able to use digital IDs to create statutory declarations without a witness, saving them approximately AU$156 million (US$101 million) in time and costs each year, according to the government.

Ensuring security for the digital ID

Accreditation is just one part of making sure Australia’s digital ID is ready for its launch in July with work underway on ensuring that the system is not vulnerable to hackers.

Australia’s digital ID providers will be expected to check the identity of a customer or client and relay the results to the service provider. Most businesses and organizations will not store identifying documents and will only have access to names, dates of birth and email addresses.

This is meant to minimize the dangers of hacking, an official from the Department of Finance told ChannelNews Australia.

Services that do have requirements for keeping documents, such as those required to fulfill anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulation, will need to obtain consent from users as well as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Digital ID providers will have to encrypt such data under guidelines set by the Australian Signals Directorate.

“Using digital ID means that businesses, big and small, don’t need to store copies of their customers or their employees’ ID documents. Having less copies of your sensitive information out there means less risk of data theft,” the official says.

Companies accredited to provide digital IDs will be expected to observe the same three levels of security standards as the government: basic, standard and strong. The highest level will include registering user biometrics such as fingerprints and face.

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