Digital ID age verification trials for online alcohol purchases in Australia underway

A Freedom of Information request has indicated that private beta testing to determine the plausibility of digital verification services offered by the likes Mastercard commenced in September.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has been carrying out digital identity age verification trials for online alcohol purchases with selected providers in Australia since September, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

FOI documents released by the Office of eSafety Commissioner indicated there were also plans to carry out similar trials for online gambling, with each private beta testing scheduled to operate for a three to six-month period.

Scope to expand the trial in 2022 has also been proposed to include additional users, other Australian-based online alcohol, online gambling service providers, and R18+ online video games with "loot boxes", and myGovID as an identity provider.

The intention of the FOI request filed by Greg Tannahill dated September 29 sought to understand Mastercard's proposed involvement in delivering or influencing the delivery of age verification services in Australia.

It came off the back of Mastercard announcing just two days before the request was filed that it was working with the DTA to see how its digital identity service could enable Australians to digitally verify their age and identity.

As part of the collaboration, Mastercard said it would work with the DTA to examine a series of private sector-led pilots and the impact its digital verification service could have on retailer and consumer experiences and expectations online.

Mastercard announced the quiet expansion of the trial for its digital identification service, following the successful completion of phase one with partners Deakin University and Australia Post last year.  

Based on discussion notes about the trials between the DTA and eSafety Commissioner, DTA noted it was focused on "establishing systems that enhance privacy, security and safety -- including by being least invasive to the user (i.e. simply determining that someone is 18+)".

"We prefer systems that are not an unnecessary burden to those wishing to access or services which are they are entitled to use," the notes said.

The DTA also highlighted that it flagged it was "interested in a market-based system that offers choice to consumers".

See also: Australia Post a 'trusted' service provider for government identification

At the time of announcing its work with the DTA, Mastercard also said it applied for accreditation under the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF), which sets out the operating model for digital identity in Australia.

If granted, Mastercard said would enable consumers to create a reusable digital identity using official identity documents, such as passports, driving licences, as well as protect digital identity data using encryption and facial biometrics.

In October, the federal government released an exposure draft for legislation that seeks to expand the application of Australia's federal digital identity system to state and territory governments and the private sector.

Under the Bill, the federal government is seeking to formally enshrine two voluntary schemes for entities that want to provide or rely on digital identity services: A federal government-run digital identity system and a new accreditation scheme that will be based on the existing TDIF system.

Additionally, the federal government, state and territory governments, Australian companies and foreign companies registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) would be eligible to apply to join the two digital identity systems.

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