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  • J Huang and S Pettigrove

Digital ID bills passed

The much-anticipated Digital ID bill, together with the Digital ID Bill (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) has finally passed the Australian Parliament this week.


The new legislation will broaden the availability of digital ID in Australia, which is currently limited to government services, many of which are lacking sophisticated user interfaces, including MyGov and Centrelink, to include State and Territory governments and private businesses. The changes are aimed at streamlining online ID verification processes, and preventing businesses from holding copies of primary documents which are then susceptible to hacks and theft.


Under the new system, individuals will be able to use smart wallets to link credentials to the chosen identity app.


The Government expects the Bills will:


  • strengthen a voluntary Accreditation Scheme for digital ID service providers that wish to demonstrate compliance with best practice privacy, security, proofing and authentication standards;

  • enable expansion of the Australian Government Digital ID System for use by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments and eventually private sector organisations; and

  • embed strong privacy and consumer safeguards, in addition to the Privacy Act, to ensure users are protected;.


The Bills are expected to receive Royal Assent in coming weeks and to commence by November 2024. Accredited businesses will be able to apply to join the Australian Government Digital ID System within two years of commencement, with banks and credit card operators expected to be the first to access the scheme.


From commencement, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will be the Digital ID Regulator alongside the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), who will regulate the privacy aspects of the Australia's Digital ID System. At this stage there is no indication that blockchain technology will be used for Australia’s digital ID system which may be a missed opportunity, but interfaces with digital ID and smart contract services in future will be needed to unlock the benefits of the technology,


While some critics previously complained that the bills was expedited through the Parliament without proper debate,  Katy Gallagher, the Minister for Finance said:

Improving safety online is a priority for us and legislation will ensure strong independent oversight is in place to support the expansion of the Australian Government Digital ID System from mid-2024.

And:

We’ve spoken with business, community and privacy groups to ensure the Bill will deliver the privacy safeguards, accreditation options and consumer safeguards they expect

Gallagher also highlighted that the digital ID scheme will remain voluntary and alternative methods will be available for those that do not wish to use digital identity verification processes. The Government has budgeted AUD$145.5M to implement regulation and oversight of the scheme.


The danger of Australia becoming a "digital papers please" environment may be overblown, but concerns of creeping surveillance will remain and it is hoped the Government keeps a careful review and limit on just what information is needed to be collected from citizens to keep our privacy and freedom protected.


By J Huang, M Bacina and S Pettigrove

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