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Australia’s opposition wants stronger controls built into Digital ID Bill

Australia’s opposition wants stronger controls built into Digital ID Bill
 

Australia’s Coalition and Greens will pursue amendments to the Digital ID Bill that the Senate Economics Legislation Committee has just cleared without any recommended changes.

After being in the works for three years, the bill was introduced in November 2023. It would give a regulator the power to accredit private and public providers of digital ID services and would introduce privacy and security protections and establish penalties for violations. The report addresses the changes in the Digital ID Bill, as well as amendments to the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) introduced by the previous government without new legislation and several Acts.

Restrictions include the banning of data profiling and the collection of attributes such as sexual orientation or race, the latter of which has seen some push-back for potential interference with bias testing as well as proof of Aboriginality. The system also aims to minimize current requests by service providers for PII that could be exposed by data breaches and instead confirms identity through the digital identity service.

The governing Labor-led Economics Legislation Committee recommended the bill be passed unamended in its report.

Australia’s proposed digital ID system has “numerous benefits” to individuals and businesses, goes “above the Privacy Act” in protections to personal and data privacy, and is based on a robust consultative process, the committee says.

The committee’s report includes dissenting comments from several groups. The Coalition said that “By delaying economy-wide expansion” through its phased roll-out that doesn’t give private providers full access to the system until phase 4, “the bill risks creating an uncompetitive Digital ID sector, and increases risks for consumers and businesses.” This could compromise interoperability.

The Greens say they would be willing to support the bill if changes were made to improve privacy and security protections, including restricting or removing law enforcement access to digital ID data.

According to Innovation Aus, the group argues that “insisting on law enforcement having access to the scheme gives the impression that there is a large and useful data set that police and security agencies will want to access,” which is untrue. The bill only allows for the use of already existing databases of information that law enforcement can already access.

In a release, Greens Senator and digital rights spokesperson David Shoebridge said that the Greens see a risk of the system worsening a digital divide and that people who can’t access or do not want a digital ID must still be able to access basic services and be able to participate in society.

“We also share the concerns of many groups that uncritical use of biometric and facial matching data could perpetuate existing biases,” he continues. “There needs to be a solid plan to ensure this isn’t baked into the scheme from the beginning.”

One Nation Senators also shared dissenting comments, recommending the digital ID must allow for offline use and recommending safeguards against law enforcement’s use of data against protesters.

The report acknowledges opposition from “most individuals who made submissions to the inquiry,” but contrasts these views with “broad support” from organizations.

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