The Australian Government has released exposure drafts of the Digital ID Bill 2023, the Digital ID Rules and the Digital ID Accreditation Rules for public consultation. The proposed legislation aims to provide individuals with a simple, inclusive and convenient method for verifying their identity in online transactions with government and businesses, while protecting the security of their personal information.
Benefits of Digital ID
The benefits of Digital ID have been highlighted by the recent major data breaches which affected many in the Australian community. Senator the Hon Kay Gallagher, Minister for Finance, Women and the Public Service, is leading the reform process and has stressed the importance of improving online safety, stating:
“Improving safety online is a huge priority…for all of us in government and companies. We are all in the same operational environment. Three-quarters of Australians surveyed by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner think that data breaches are one of the biggest privacy risks they face today”.
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s recent Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey 2023 found almost half of all survey respondents (47 per cent) were told by an organisation that their personal information was involved in a data breach in the previous year and almost a third (29 per cent) said they had to replace key identity documents. This issue is particularly concerning when considering the many online services provided daily by the government and the private sector to the community. In describing what the Digital ID involves, Senator Gallagher clarified:
“Importantly, Digital ID is not a card, it's not a unique number, nor a new form of ID. It's just an easy way of verifying who you are online, against existing government-held identity documents without having to hand over any physical information”.
Accordingly, Digital ID can assist in mitigating risks of data breaches occurring by reducing the handling of key identity documents when an individual applies for such services.
Impact of changes
The proposed legislation enables the expansion of the Australian Government Digital ID System (AGDIS). Many Australians currently use the Australian Government’s accredited Digital ID provider, MyGovID, to access Commonwealth, state and territory government services through the existing system. The proposed reforms provide Australians with greater choice in which accredited state and territory Digital ID providers they use to access Commonwealth services. Over time, users will have a choice regarding whether they choose to use the existing approach or a private sector provider to verify their ID to access some government or private sector services.
The proposed legislation sets out new requirements for entities wishing to participate in the AGDIS. For example, subject to limited exceptions, it must be voluntary for individuals to use Digital IDs within the AGDIS (particularly when accessing government services). Additionally, there are specific requirements for cyber and fraud incident reporting, data localisation, liability and charging in the system.
If an entity becomes accredited under the reforms, they must adhere to additional privacy safeguards that go beyond those in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). Key among these safeguards are prohibitions on the use of single identifiers, disclosing information for marketing, and restrictions on the collection, use and disclosure of biometrics and other personal information.
The proposed reforms give the Information Commissioner power to make sure those safeguards are provided and any breaches are penalised. The proposed legislation also establishes an independent regulator of Digital ID. Initially, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is slated for appointment to the role, which is responsible for accrediting Digital ID services against the Digital ID Accreditation Rules and approving services which can participate in the AGDIS.
Consultation on the proposed legislation is open until 10 October 2023. You may have your say by visiting the Australian Government’s website here.