In July, Australian Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said she expected the national digital identity model to be implemented in an "economy-wide system." But an Australian pensioner named Luca doesn't think it's a good idea.
Luca discovered that a fraudster had gained access to his MyGov account in mid-July despite having a password and three verification questions. The hackers managed to change his bank account and BSB number and even requested an advance on his age pension.
He immediately reported the incident to Centrelink but learned from the staff that other clients also experienced the same case of identity theft. "This means that there are likely to be thousands of people in a similar situation," he told the Epoch Times. Centrelink then confirmed that there has been a spike in identity theft since 2022.
Gallagher dismissed the concerns and labeled them as "theories … coming out of COVID" and "conspiracy theories about what [the] government's trying to do." She argued that the national ID system is primarily about giving citizens control over their information, allowing them to access government services easily, securely, voluntarily and efficiently.
However, Philip Bos, an expert in identity theft and security with over 35 years of experience in cybersecurity, disagreed. He criticized the idea of centralizing identity data that can be accessed by government agencies or businesses, even with consumer authorization, as flawed. (Related: Australia following Communist China’s footsteps with digital ID system.)
He suggested that until the government and businesses change their practices through legislation and operational reforms, the new digital ID system could still be vulnerable to breaches. He warned that using personal documents for verification purposes has become risky, especially if identity thieves and cyber hackers targeted government accounts.
"The culture of demanding, requiring, storing and sharing unnecessary personal identification data not relevant to the transaction at hand is overdue to be discarded," Bos said.
In 2022, the Australian government proposed a verified online login for Services NSW, Service Victoria and the federal MyGov as part of the incoming national ID system. This streamlined the identity verification processes and replaced the need for physical documents such as passports and birth certificates.
Thanks to the project, Australians now have several options for creating their digital ID in federal agencies, states and banks. But critics point out that this project is similar to the controversial Australia Card proposed and subsequently withdrawn by the government of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke in the 1980s.
The Australia Card was a proposal for a national identification card for Australian citizens and resident foreigners. The proposal was made in 1985, and abandoned in 1987.
"There was a very bad lesson learned in the 1980s with the Australia Card. That was the last time a national ID card system was called by its name and addressed frankly with all of its issues," said David Vaile, chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation.
PrivacyWatch.news has more stories related to the implications of digital ID systems.
Watch this documentary that discusses how the digital passport ID would introduce state control.
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