Digital ministers to meet, digital ID top of mind

Australia’s digital and data ministers will convene to discuss the federal government’s digital identity system in the wake of the Optus data breach, as legislation for the expansion of the scheme remains missing after two years of consultation.

After a six-month hiatus, the first meeting of the Digital and Data Ministers’ Meeting since the election is scheduled to take place in November, with Finance minister Katy Gallagher as chair.

It will be only the third meeting this year, whereas eight meetings were held in 2021 and a further seven meetings were convened in 2020. The Digital and Data Ministers’ Meeting started life as the Australian Digital Council in September 2018.

Minister Gallagher told the meeting will focus on “how we can ensure that Australians can access safe, secure and trusted government services online”, including the digital identity system.

Digital identity has new currency for the government following the Optus data breach that exposed the personal information of 9.8 million customers.

Information and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk has confirmed the breach is Australia’s largest since the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme was introduced in 2018.

Optus chief executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin on Monday said investigations had revealed at least one number from a current and valid form of identification was exposed for 1.2 million customers.

A further 900,000 had numbers relating to expired ID’s compromised, in addition to the 7.1 million that had some personal information stolen.

Optus has now commissioned an independent review of the breach, with consulting giant Deloitte to “undertake a forensic assessment of the cyber-attack and the circumstances surrounding it”.

The breach has highlighted problems with data collection practices, namely the need for governments and businesses to collect credentials to verify a person’s identity.

The government has spent the past seven years developing a digital identity system for citizens to interact with federal services and – in future – other state and territory and private sector services.

Using a “double blind”, the system allows identity providers to vouch for a person when they transact with third-parties services without revealing that individual’s single identity credential.

However, despite setting aside $600 million, the scheme has stalled due to delays with legislation that would expand the scheme beyond the myGovID credential and enshrine privacy protections.

The former Coalition government failed to introduce the digital identity legislation before Parliament was prorogued for the May election, despite originally planning to do so last year.

The legislation, which the Digital Transformation Agency began consulting on in October 2021, is believed to still be at draft stage.

Minister Gallagher said the digital identity system – and the underpinning legislation – was on the meeting’s agenda but offered no timeframe for when the legislation might be introduced.

“[The system] has been designed to protect the privacy of Australians and minimises the amount of personal information shared across services and is protected by strict security protocols,” she said.

“The further development of the Australian Government digital identity system will improve on the safeguards that already exist to protect the personal information of all Australians.”

Digital ministers have previously agreed to “actively explore”, “discuss opportunities” for and “work towards” a digital identity system, according to previous communiqué’s from the meeting.

The planned talks come as New South Wales government pushes ahead with its vision for decentralised credentials, including a digital wallet that give citizens control of their digital identity.

The first verifiable credential – the digital birth certificate, the development of which the state government is leading on behalf of Australia – is now expected to be piloted in December.

The government went down the path of decentralised, verifiable credentials after ditching plans to adopt a ‘copy solution’ for the state’s digital driver’s licence (DDL).

“Ultimately, a paper copy of the DDL is not an end-to-end digital product … a copy solution is a paper sandwich,” New South Wales Digital Government minister Victor Dominello said in October 2020.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

  1. Eric 2 years ago

    I have absolutely no interest in a government digital identity. If offered (as it has for health records, and for access to government services) I refuse to participate and will continue to refuse to participate. If that means in future every transaction I make has to be in cash, and I have to stop using the internet entirely, so be it.

  2. I too totally agree. I do not want to be under a communist regime, nor do I wish to be microchipped, under digital surveillance and told how to live, what to eat etc. We are supposed to be a democracy, which means freedom of speech, thought and medical treatment.
    Looking at WA’s latest pandemic rules for the next 2 years, it appears that we are going to be under such tyranny as the laws have been passed without any consultation with the public at all.

  3. Julie 2 years ago

    The plan to introduce a digital ID AND programmable digital currency, is unacceptable. We are being steered into a Chinese life of surveillance and control. Governments must start restoring sovereignty and democracy, rather than doing the bidding of the globalist agenda.

  4. Shelleigh 2 years ago

    Totally agree with the above comments. We don’t want a digital ID. I reject any form of digital identity

  5. Shelleigh 2 years ago

    There’s no way I will be accepting any digital ID wallet or anything else. Totally agree with previous comments…time to wake up sheeple

  6. Jay 2 years ago

    Well, well, well what a surprise! Me and my small group of millions of conspiracy theory friends knew the Optus data leak was a false flag. The way the media and Government hyped up it’s significance and scale and because we know the Government is desperate to push something on to us that no one wants. We were asked to vote and give feedback on the Digital ID Website and overwhelmingly we rejected it. So here we have the Government creating a problem that doesn’t exist to try and justify their push for something we don’t need or want. Just like so many other things lately, the Government creates the problem and then offers the solution. Time to wake up everyone, us conspiracy theorists have been running at 100% for almost 3 years now.

  7. Marg 2 years ago

    I agree with the previous comment from Chris. I will never accept a digital Identity under any circumstances. It’s time for people to stand up to this slave system.

  8. Chris 2 years ago

    I emphatically reject a digital ID and I know there are many others who will reject it also. This is unnecessary control over the people.

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