Big banks get in on digital ID

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The federal government’s two taxpayer-funded digital identity offerings are set to get some major competitors, with the big banks finalising their own digital identity framework.

The Payment Systems Board confirmed this week that earlier this year it had quietly completed the first version of the TrustID digital identity framework, with help from the Reserve Bank of Australia and other participants.

The TrustID framework sets out the requirements needed to create an “interoperable network of competing digital identity solutions in Australia”, and sounds remarkably similar to the government’s own troubled GovPass efforts.

But the banks’ service will connect with the government’s GovPass, with the Board working closely with the Digital Transformation Agency to ensure it is compatible. This means that eventually Australians will be able to log into MyGov using their banking credentials, and vice versa.

“The framework is designed to allow individuals to establish their digital identity online with a preferred service provider and then to use those credentials to prove who they are when interacting online with businesses, including when making online payments,” the Payment System Board annual report said.

“In addition to potentially reducing fraud, it is anticipated that digital identity services will emerge that will improve the convenience and security of many online interactions, enhance privacy and data security, and reduce costs related to identifying customers, such as those associated with ‘know-your-customer’ processes.”

The hope now is that the completion of this framework will “spur the launch of digital identity solutions in the Australian market that can start to address some of the challenges of identity verification in a digital economy”.

The government’s own digital identity project, GovPass, is a set of interconnected initiatives aiming to allow Australians to access government services online without having to enter multiple passwords or complete a series of identity checks.

The DTA has developed the Trusted Digital Identity Framework, a set of rules and standards used to accredit digital identity providers. So far, the ATO’s myGovID and Australia Post’s Digital ID have been accredited under this system.

The DTA recently opened the fourth round of consultations on the framework to make it easier for the private sector to participate. This move – a “foundational step to developing a true whole-of-economy solution” – will likely pave the way for the TrustID and the digital identities of the big banks to be accredited by the government.

There have been widespread criticisms of the government’s GovPass program, with calls for a full-scale review to investigate spiralling costs and continual delays.

Several industry insiders have criticised decisions to develop new services and technology inside of purchasing off-the-shelf fixes, and a lack of legislation underpinning the scheme has also raised concerns.

The Coalition has now thrown nearly $150 million into the project. If the big banks decide to participate in TrustID, their offerings would represent a major competitor to the government’s two digital identity offerings.

Under the government’s ideal situation, the federated ecosystem of digital identity providers will allow an Australian to choose one provider – for example ANZ – and then use their identity with that provider to login to various other services, including myGov.

Whether the big banks will decide to get involved, and whether the general public will buy into the largely unknown scheme, remains to be seen.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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