The New South Wales government will begin testing the photo verification technology that will underpin its answer to digital identity through a series of pilot programs slated for launch later this month.
Outgoing Customer Service and Digital Government minister Victor Dominello announced the initial pilots for the state’s much-anticipated decentalised digital identity credential, NSW Digital ID, on Wednesday.
The pilots will allow customers to renew their Working with Children Check and conduct proof of age checks for online alcohol purchases through the Service NSW app, and inform any future state-wide rollout of the digital ID.
Minister Dominello flagged on LinkedIn that legislation limiting law enforcement access to the scheme to “instances of very serious crime only” and the inclusion of regular audits would be required before any future rollout.
NSW Digital ID is the result of several years of work that began after the government ditched plans for a copy solution to extend the acceptance of the digital driver’s licence beyond a handful of situations.
The government revealed plans for a locally-stored, opt-in digital ID in November 2021, when it also began procuring a personalised digital wallet or credential vault to allow individuals to manage, share and verify credentials online.
Since then, efforts to reduce the oversharing personal information have become more urgent following recent data breaches at Optus, which exposed the identity credentials of millions of Australians, and Medibank.
“Recent cyber breaches have underlined the need to keep the control of our private information in the hands of the customer, and stop the need for the continual oversharing of our personal details,” Minister Dominello said.
NSW Digital ID works much like the federal government’s myGovID, allowing individuals to verify their identity documents through the identity document checking system known as the Document Verification Service (DVS).
The photo verification technology being trialled through the Working with Children Check and alcohol purchase pilots by the state government will also allow individuals to take a selfie and having it matched against a reference photo, such as that on a driver’s licence.
Minister Dominello said the NSW Digital ID and the pilots have “privacy, security and customer” baked in, with customers “able to store their encrypted personal information securely on their own device meaning it will not be held centrally by government or a private entity”.
“Customers can be confident that no biometric or photo data will be stored once successfully verified. This will give customers more control over their personal information and reduce the oversharing of physical identity documents and credentials,” he said.
Minister Dominello said the NSW Digital ID program builds and improves on the work already done with the myGovID program, and will “unlock a range of possibilities for more inclusive and security digital government services”.
“The NSW Digital Identity will take things to the next level, increasing convenience and customer control over what personal information and credentials are shared with whom,” Minister Dominello added.
Ongoing tests against the privacy impact assessment, as well as fraud risk assessments, security risk assessments and the New South Wales artificial intelligence framework will continue through the pilot. The government will also continue to consult with the Information and Privacy Commissioners.
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