The Australian government plans to allocate an additional $56 million to the ongoing operation of identity matching services in the country’s emerging Digital ID program, part of a larger proposed package of $145.5 million for the overall project. The funding arrived alongside legislation introduced to the country’s senate that would expand the use of digital ID beyond citizens’ interactions with the federal government, and into the online services of states, territories, and accredited actors in the private sector.
Digital security appears to be top of mind for the government. In addition to the identity matching services to be used in the digital ID, there is also an allocation of $3.3 million to an effort to “enhance the credential protection register to enable the government to respond to future data breaches and support and protect victims of identity crime.” And Government Services Minister Bill Shorten noted that biometric systems such as those used in smartphones may be used for authentication in digital ID transactions.
The funding package comes after responsibility for the long-gestating digital ID program was transferred to Australia’s Department of Finance this past summer. At a Government Services Summit, Finance Minister Katy Gallagher suggested that her department was aiming to launch the digital ID in the summer of 2024, though she admitted that this would be “a pretty tight timeframe”.
Going forward, there will be some contentious issues to work out as the legislation and funding are considered in the senate and among parliamentary committees. For one, government officials say that intelligence agencies will be able to access data tied to the digital ID system without a warrant, an allowance that may alarm privacy and civil rights advocates. There is also a concern that the legislation leaves room for banks and retailers to add digital ID-related surcharges to their transactions with Australians.
Beyond those issues, the overall cost of the digital ID program may be a matter of concern for some. The newly proposed funding package would bring the total spent on the program to $781.9 million so far.
December 1, 2023 – by Alex Perala