Australia Post will start offering a biometric, face-recognition component to its Digital iD service in the next couple of weeks, before ramping up marketing of the service from February.
The first iteration of Post’s Digital iD service was released earlier this year. It verifies an online user’s identity using documents such as driver’s licence and passport, smartphone apps and QR codes.
It’s being used or piloted by 13 organisations, and has a user base counted in the “tens of thousands” according to Cameron Gough, general manager and founder of Australia Post’s Digital iD.
He said that the first tranche of users were early adopters who were in the main either “tech savvy leaders or privacy conscious people.”
As Australia Post ramps up its digital identity efforts, it will however be looking to sign up millions of Australians in order to become the front door to a raft of its own and third party online services.
According to Mr Gough, who yesterday demonstrated the new facial recognition element of the Digital iD service in Sydney, it provides; “A frictionless way to confirm who someone use and increase the conversion rates,” for enterprises which deploy it.
It’s not entirely frictionless to set up a biometric Digital iD, however – at least for iPhone users.
While anyone can submit the document details needed to create an entry level ID (driver’s licence, passport, Medicare card for example) online or via a smartphone app, to complete the biometric component iPhone users will need to visit a Post Office where a photo licence or passport can be sighted. Australia Post will start offering this service in January.
Android smartphone users who have an NFC chip in their phone can skip this step and simply use the NFC card to read the chip in a recent passport to confirm a biometric.
Once the biometric is authenticated someone can identify themselves with a selfie and a “liveness test” – which, for example asks the user to nod their head or look left to prove they are a living human not a photo.
As soon as Australia Post is able to access the Face Verification Service (FVS) that the Government has pledged to switch on in 2018, the biometric verification will be streamlined for all smartphone users.
Similar to the Document Verification Service (DVS) that Australia Post already leverages to confirm the bona fides of a passport or driver’s licence the FVS will verify the facial biometric.
“The FVS is gold,” said Mr Gough acknowledging it would take out the friction of verifying biometrics, particularly for iPhone users.
While Australia Post is seeking out enterprise customers for its Digital iD service, it also wants to successfully coexist with the Federal Government’s GovPass digital identity framework.
Australia Post wants to be one of the first accredited ID suppliers operating in that framework.
The opt-in GovPass digital identity framework has been developed by the Digital Transformation Agency and is currently in beta. That also requires biometric verification for certain applications.
Australians have until December 8 to provide feedback on the proposed framework
Similar to Australia Post’s Digital iD, to create a GovPass citizens will need to enter details from documents such as a birth certificate, passport or driver’s licence which will then be verified and also supply a biometric to the Government (it may already have this in the form of a passport photo) and upload a selfie to confirm identity.
Following the agreement at COAG earlier this year to share driver’s licence biometrics, a much larger trove of biometrics will be available to match against supplied GovPass selfies once the FVS is switched on.
Once a GovPass is established, it can be used to access multiple government services – replacing the 30 or so separate government service logins currently in operation. Currently in beta test, a larger pilot of GovPass is scheduled for 2018.
While privacy advocates remain opposed to some elements of the GovPass framework, there has not been the same level of public concern about the proposed identity management system compared to the public outcry about the 1980s’ proposed Australia Card which eventually led to its demise.
Mr Gough said he believed that was because the systems now being developed do not feature a summary identifier, and that consumers and citizens were not being forced to use Digital iD or GovPass.
There were instead opt-in services intended to streamline access to digital services.