ANZ CTO criticises government's digital identity plans as 'highly complex'

ANZ Bank chief technology officer Patrick Maes believes the Australian government needs to follow in the footsteps of India and Europe when it establishes a digital identity framework.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

A top priority for the federal government's Digital Transformation Office (DTO) has been to establish a trusted digital identity framework, but for Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) chief technology officer Patrick Maes, the principles and standards the government is looking to set are unnecessary.

Maes has criticised the federal government's prospective plans to establish a federated identity system as "highly complex".

"In Australia, we have 23 million people, and we are talking about how do we create a federated identity system, and that is highly complex," he said.

"It's because you're going to take a little bit of data from that bank, and a bit from this and that to create an identity, which by the way will never be 100 percent correct. But with the threat that we see with identity theft, I think it's stupidity."

Maes instead suggested that Australia needs to follow in the footsteps of countries such as India, which has a population of 1 billion people and an existing digital identity system in place. Maes revealed that ANZ has already built test capabilities in its Indian franchises to enable customers to open up an account without paperwork, instead using digital identity through facial biometric recognition.

He also highlighted that countries in Europe are also leading the way by using chip-enabled identity cards, where an individual's details are all stored on the chip.

"My sister works for a hospital, and if she picked that of a dying patient, she can access, using the card, all of the patient's medical background," he said.

"It's not just about having an identity; it's about how we can connect multiple sources of data. [In Australia] we are making it highly complicated. I think if we can sort it out from a government perspective ... and get it established, then we have a digital future."

Maes went on to say that when Australia does get it right, the revenue of identity will be "huge, because it can give you better security; it can give you a better experience; high personalisation, which is something you can't do if you don't have identity".

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had previously said part of plans to establish a digital identity will be to use voice print to access services through telephony and mobile channels.

The prospect of biometric identification technology such as voice print access came after the myGov login system faced criticism last year when vulnerabilities were found in the website, including the ability for one researcher to hijack the accounts of registered myGov users, according to a Fairfax report.

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