Minister says law enforcement to be denied access in new digital ID legislation

Also flags privately-owned PharmacyID and payments company Eftpos as eager to provide identity services once the Bill becomes law.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has been working on Australia's digital identity system for a number of years, going live with the myGovID -- developed by the Australian Taxation Office -- and accrediting an equivalent identity service from Australia Post last year.

The myGovID and the Australia Post Digital ID are essentially just forms of digital identification that allow a user to access certain online services, such as the government's online portal myGov.

There has been conversation around extending digital ID to allow the private sector and state government entities to develop their own platform. Eftpos previously flagged its interest and according to the minister in charge of digital transformation, Stuart Robert, PharmacyID is also interested.

"Now I'm building up, on behalf of the government, a federated model, a trusted digital identity framework," he said on Wednesday.

"We'll have another Act through the Parliament, this year, all going well, that allows other digital identities to be created, so DigiID from Australia Post, Eftpos is interested, so is Pharmacy for PharmacyID, that the idea of replicating 100 point check-in paper form, like you do now at a bank or a telco, but doing that digitally with absolute and utter assurance, and you can get a PharmacyID and you'll be able to use that seamlessly for government."

Appearing before Senate Estimates in November, DTA CDO Peter Alexander said his agency is moving forward with the plan to bring in legislation to allow private entities onboard.

"It is important to note, today we're using myGovID, but into the future, you'll be able to use a choice of identity provider, there'll be additional providers … it could be a bank, it could be a state and territory identity provider. So individuals and businesses dealing with the Australian government and national services will be able to make a choice," he said.

See also: More privacy conscious and not Australia Card 2.0: DTA defends digital identity play

The Trusted Digital Identity Framework sets out the operating model for digital identity. It's essentially a set of rules that federal government agencies can follow, but they can't be applied to states and territories, or to the private sector.

This is where legislation will be used.

Robert highlighted there has been a number of impediments to data sharing over the years, saying while they all have meant well, it has prevented the use of data. "For example, I can't use Medicare data to assist you with a simple inquiry. I can't use disability data for a disability support payment to help you get on the NDIS," he said.  

The DTA is also looking to add a digital, biometrically anchored identity, which Alexander previously said would allow users to simply take a photograph of themselves for it to be matched to a passport.

"In time, that will be able to match the other biometrics that are held like driver's licences, working with vulnerable children -- whatever biometric is held," he said.

With concerns that law enforcement could have access to the data, particularly the biometric "anchoring" the service provides for, Robert said access would be denied in the coming Bill.

"We will bring a Bill to the Parliament that will allow the use of data about a citizen to be used only for service delivery and I'll specifically deny the use for law enforcement or compliance," he said. "That way if you tell us once you won't have to fill in a multiple forms, because we'll have your data once."

The minister said 2 million Australians have a myGovID.


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